|Born Emma Elizabeth Crouch either in London in 1835 or in Plymouth in 1842, her father was a cellist and composer who emigrated to the United States in 1849. Emma began her life of prostitution in London but soon settled in Paris, where she adopted the name Cora Pearl.
Of all the grandes horizontales, she was arguably the most famous. During her lifetime she was the acknowledged Queen of the Paris courtesans. Her lovers, all wealthy noblemen, she called her ‘chain of gold.’ By the late 1860s, she owned several houses, stables, the finest wardrobe and extravagant jewellery. A British report stated that her bill for lingerie from one Parisian supplier came to more than £18,000, a phenomenal sum in a period when annual wages for a servant were as little as £16. During her career Emma made and spent literally millions of francs. Her lovers included, but were by no means confined to, Prince Willem, son of the King of the Netherlands; Prince Achille Murat, grandson of Joachim Murat; the duc de Morny, the Emperor’s half-brother; and Prince Napoléon, the Emperor’s cousin. The last mentioned of these bought her two homes in Paris and maintained her financially until 1874. During the Siege of Paris she turned her sumptuous town house into a hospital for wounded soldiers.
Her career came to an abrupt end when one of her more ardent suitors shot himself on her doorstep. Although seriously injured, he survived and the incident would only have enhanced her reputation, but it became known that rather than summon help, Cora had shut the front door and gone to bed. Reports of her callousness spread quickly, after which no man of wealth wanted anything to do with her.
By 1886, desperately ill with intestinal cancer, she was forced to move into a shabby boarding house. She died there on 8 July 1886.
Photographed by A.A.E. Disdéri of London and Paris.
condition: The print presents a slight loss of tone in the area of the background, where there is also some fine spotting. The mount is clean and firm, with crisp edges and sharp corners.
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