Shelved Dolls: La Paiva – A Really Glamorous Monster

La paiva

I sometimes feel there is a pattern with Shelved Dolls. I begin with a saint, then write about a serial killer and then a sinner – and start the rotation again. Marion Davies was going to be our sinner but, according to Tennessee Williams and good people everywhere she “made up for the rest of Hollywood” so I decided we needed a really spicy courtesan this week.

A regular champagne bubble about town, if you will.

As I was thinking that, I read this article in Lapham’s which stated:

Rose champagne is the intoxicant of choice for courtesans and kings. Beautiful, expensive, and rare, it was beloved by the grandest of the grandes horizontales of nineteenth-century Paris—and the men who could afford to love them. In Second Empire France, the Countess Henkel von Donnersmarck—known to historians of the libido as La Païva, and earlier as Esther Lachmann, late of the Moscow ghetto—demanded magnums of it as a “gratuity” while entertaining clients in the boudoir of her ill-begotten Hotel de la Païva on the Champs-Élysées.

I just knew we had found our girl. I wanted to investigate her life story for I am a historian of the libido.

The Lapham’s article also contains the sentence, “There was apparently no slaking louche women and their lust for pink bubbly”. You should probably take a few minutes right now to decide which portion of that statement is your favorite. Louche? Slaking? Lust for pink bubbly? God, why is Lapham’s not the most popular magazine in America?

Segue time – there will be no slaking my lust for knowledge about this woman. Who, apparently, really was a sinner. Most of the courtesans we read about are perhaps a little frivolous (Mme. du Barry) or else fiercely independent (Veronica Franco) but they aren’t generally dedicated towards bleeding their lovers dry. La Paiva was.

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    • JennyWren

      More than anything I’m always amazed at the sheer sums these women could command for their attentions. I understand they were selling more than sex, that most of them also sold their wit and charming company, but let’s be honest- given the sprawling sex market a reasonably wealthy man back then would not need to beggar himself in pursuit of plentiful sex and pleasant company. But many of them did because women like La Paiva turned themselves into a brand and they wanted the status of being with them as much as anything else.

    • Netochka

      She’s almost like a real like Nana, I wonder if Zola ever went to her parties..

    • M -

      I’d love for you to do a Shelved Dolls article about someone who has made a difference, like Mary Crow Dog (although the depraved ones are definitely exciting to read about).