The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography



Finette (real name Josephine Durwend) of the Bal Mabille was a can-can dancer, thirty years before the dance evolved into the meringue petticoats-and-bloomers form practised by La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge. The Bal Mabille was one of the more disreputable dance halls of the Second Empire, and Finette was also a available to gentlemen after-hours for entertainment unrelated to her skills as a dancer. In his student days in Paris she was briefly the mistress of James McNeill Whistler, who made two etchings of her in 1859.

'Finette smokes, Finette gets drunk, her language is vulgar, she beats her maid from morning to night', sniped her arch-rival Rigolboche. 'They say Finette writes charming letters. She doesn't even know how to write her own name and only reads magazines… she gets her piano teacher to do her writing for her'.

Photographed in 1867 at the London branch of the great French photographer Disdéri.


Code: 123541
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