Finally something juicy…
19th-century Parisian mores
Yup, in a short, sharp change of direction, I thought a talk that dealt with sex, 19th-century Parisian social mores, sex, art, sex and Zola (in that order) might prove a valuable distraction from all the ‘worthy’ events I’ve so far attended.
And I wasn’t wrong… for two reasons -
The subject matter of the event was factual, historical and deliciously delectable, concerning as it did the forgotten story of Valtesse de la Bigne, a Parisian courtesan who, from humble beginnings, went on to inspire a painting by Manet, a novel by Zola, and a family tree plucked entirely out her own imagination (complete with specially commissioned family portraits I might add).
Plus, I t introduced first-time writer Catherine Hewitt who, based both on the book and her own self-assured presence at the event, is almost certain to become a familiar name.
Interviewed by the inimitably superb Paul Blezard, it made for a cracking end to the day, dealing as it did with the 19th-century equivalent of a Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian (as in a self-made woman who turned herself through sheer force of will and other people’s money into one of history’s great cause celebres)
A story in fact - and this is meant in no derogatory way but quite the opposite - that would easily pass muster as a Richard and Judy beach read.
As it teases in the Festival’s brochure: ‘De la Bigne (Valtesse) was born into poverty and raised in the squalid backstreets of Paris. So, how did she rise to own a small fortune, three mansions, fabulous carriages and art that was the envy of connoisseurs across Europe?’
But it would spoil your fun if I were to tell you anymore.
Suffice to say, it was a perfect event to set the stage for a few Proseccos afterwards…
DEPRESSING? NOT A BIT OF IT! - MARCH 22 - 5.39pm
PLAYFULLY COMBATIVE - MARCH 22 - 3.10pm
BUBBLE, BUBBLE, TOIL AND TROUBLE - MARCH 22 - 1.32pm
DID WHAT IT SAID ON THE TIN - MARCH 22 - 11.18am
A DISCERNING DIP INTO THE JOYS OF GIN - MARCH 22 - 9.29am
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD - MARCH 21 - 2.48pm
BEE-LIEVE - MARCH 21 - 11.07am