I love this painting by Belgian artist Charles Hermans (1838-1924).
It's aptly named At Dawn and I'm reminded of how very little times and youth have changed.
There they are, a drunken gentleman (disreputable as one might expect, but in the most charming way, I'm sure), with two beautifully dressed, but very tipsy ladies on his arms, emerging from a night of revelry.
Clearly, he's spent money with great abandon. His boutonniere is completely askew, a lovely bouquet has found its' way to the gutter and another bouquet is hanging on for dear life at the side of the young lady in the blue dress.
He's a skirt chaser, a cad...hedging his bets with the bouquet purchases for these very glamorous and desirable young women. God only knows what happened afterwards, but the very sober morning crowd are not impressed by this show of impropriety.
I somehow doubt men today expect a bouquet of flowers to impress women in the same manner. It seems so old fashioned now. But back then flowers were serious romantic business.
In the OLD days, the favours of a very fashionable courtesan could not be won simply with a posy of violets or gardenia blooms. No, these gorgeous, glamorous, and very often well educated creatures expected nothing less than extravagant bouquets of flowers. It was a way by which she could assess a man's wealth and worth.
I was reminded of these glamourous women when reading Patricia Zohn's; A Girls Guide to Love and Opera, where she has reviewed a recent production of La Traviata (I love this opera) on The Huffington Post. The main character Violetta Valery is based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas' "La Dame aux Camilias" - The Lady of the Camellias.
Another famous courtesan in literature is Emile Zola's 'Nana'. At one point in the book she decrees:
"Well then, if she (the other woman) wants Leon, she can have him. For what he's worth. One bouquet a week, if that !"
Can't say I blame her.
It wasn't really about the flowers (the overflow were given away to the hired help). It was what they represented. An orgy of flowers was a tribute to her desirability (beauty, charm and intellect) and the price men were prepared to pay for her company.
Bring on the flowers !