The J. Paul Getty Museum

[Versailles, Maison Close, Petit Place, Mars 1921 (Brothel, Versailles, Petit Place, March 1921)]

Object Details


[Versailles, Maison Close, Petit Place, Mars 1921 (Brothel, Versailles, Petit Place, March 1921)]


Eugène Atget (French, 1857 - 1927)




Paris, France (Place Created)


March 1921


Gelatin silver chloride printing-out paper print

Object Number:



21.8 × 16.4 cm (8 9/16 × 6 7/16 in.)

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Object Description

In 1921 the painter André Dignimont (1891-1965) commissioned Eugène Atget to make a series of photographs of prostitutes for a possible publication. About a dozen pictures resulted, taken between March and May. Some, like this one, were created in the town of Versailles, where this woman lingers in the doorway of a brothel, indicated by the size of the street number over the door. Prohibited from identifying their bordellos with signs, proprietors resorted to posting larger than ordinary numerals—some more conspicuous than this example—so that customers could recognize the true nature of the establishments.

Despite her self-protectively crossed arms, the prostitute who poses in front of this scarred facade does not seem averse to being photographed. A friendly, if not particularly alluring, smile is fixed on her heavily made-up face, and clearly she wears her working costume. Her skirt is extremely short for the time, like those of some of the other prostitutes that Atget photographed. Its abbreviated length is intended to attract customers by displaying her legs. Similarly, her high-laced boots can be assumed to have a sexual connotation, which is perhaps somewhat at odds with her bright white socks. The fox fur that hangs limply from her shoulders presumably is meant to add a touch of class to her appearance. It would be interesting to know how Atget explained his objective to this woman and if he paid to photograph her. His even-handed treatment of her is parallel to his images of tradespeople (see 94.XM.108.4, 90.XM.127.4, and 90.XM.64.26). Of all of Atget's pictures, only this series and three nudes, probably made in a brothel in 1925, deal with sexuality.

Originally published in Eugène Atget, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by Gordon Baldwin (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 66. ©2000, J. Paul Getty Trust.


Daniel Wolf, Inc. New York, NY, USA

Persistent Themes: Notable Photography Acquisitions, 1985-1990 (June 5 to September 2, 1990)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), June 5 to September 2, 1990
Atget's Magical Analysis: Photographs 1915-1927 (October 29, 1991 to January 5, 1992)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 29, 1991 to January 5, 1992
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995

Lifson, Ben. Eugéne Atget (New York: Hacker Art Books, 1980), pl. 51.

Szarkowski, John and Maria Morris Hambourg. The Work of Atget. 4 vols. (New York: Museum of Modern Art; Boston: Distributed by New York Graphic Society, 1981-1985) vol. 4, pl. 67.

Naef, Weston. Atget's Magical Analysis: Photographs 1915-1927, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), fig. 1.

Baldwin, Gordon. In Focus: Eugène Atget: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), pl. 30.