Fantasy in the Flesh
The courtesan is meant to be a half-defined, floating figure never fixing herself surely in the imagination. She is the memory of an experience, the point at which a dream is transformed into reality or reality into a dream. The bright colours fade, her name becomes a mere echo – echo of an echo, since she has probably adopted it from some ancient predecessor.
The idea of the courtesan is a garden of delights in which the lover walks, smelling first this flower and then that but never understanding whence comes the fragrance that intoxicates him. Why should the courtesan not elude analysis? She does not want to be recognised for what she is, but rather to be allowed to be potent and effective. She offers the truth of herself – or, rather, of the passions that become directed toward her. And what she gives back is one’s self and an hour of grace in her presence. Love revives when you look at her: is that not enough? She is the generative force of an illusion, the birth point of desire, the threshold of contemplation of bodily beauty.
📖 Lynne Lawner, Lives of the Courtesans: Portraits of the Reinassance