The awe-inspiring painted ceramic friezes at Aux Belles Poules are not only artistic masterpieces, but historic relics that have been hailed as the last remaining traces of the once-thriving Parisian bordello scene. Paris recently welcomed the triumphant reappearance of the friezes for the first time in 70 years, when the former brothel underwent a painstaking renovation.
While there were in excess of 200 Parisian brothels flourishing in the 1930s, Aux Belles Poules – ‘The Beautiful Hens’ – is now all that remains.
The site, which was first opened in 1921, is so rare and unique that it has now been added to a list of historic monuments.
After years of renovation, carefully retouching the vivid colours that line its mysterious walls, this repurposed brothel has been transformed into a quirky events space for readings and parties.
It promises to unveil the hidden past of Paris in all its most vibrant colours.
“I wanted to restore Aux Belles Poules because it’s a truly unique place in Paris,” explains Caroline Senot, the owner, in an exclusive interview.
“The friezes were made in the beginning of the 1920s and are the last memory of Parisian brothels. In fact, after the Marthe Richard’s law in 1946, which closed all brothels in France, the politicians decided to destroy all the famous places of prostitution.”
“Everything is beautiful at Aux Belles Poules. The frieze represents naked women in erotic scenes, but it’s not pornographic. It just represents the fantasies of the early 1920s.”
“This includes fauns [mythological half human–half goat creatures], centaurs [mythological creatures with the upper body of a human and the lower body and legs of a horse], dancing nymphs and Egyptian women with their slaves.”
“The most beautiful mosaic is the woman near our toilets. When you enter the room, you just can’t not be impressed by the number of mirrors on the wall. It was the perfect place to see women from every angle.”
“I think your readers have to come because it’s such a unique and historic place.”
“We organise group tours to explain the history of brothels, particularly the history behind Aux Belles Poules.”
“Also from March, we will start organising a dinner show with burlesque dancers or erotic theatre, where the space can be privatised to celebrate special moments with originality.”