This is a picture of the Puppet Theatre in the Polish city of Wroclaw. The fine neo-Baroque building was built in the 1890s when the city was called Breslau and belonged to Germany. It was originally built as a sort of Chamber of Commerce building and there is an interesting story behind the two stone figures who hold up the entrance portal. The left hand one is of a topless woman and few of the people who use the building know that she is a sex worker. ,
The sculptor had a deeply religious wife who was uninterested in sex. He became, therefore, an habitue of the city’s brothels and a regular client of a beautiful young sex worker called Maria. It is, perhaps, not a good idea for a client to fall in love with a sex worker but that is what he did. This besotted man made plans for them to go away together, to marry and to live happily ever after.
Sadly these plans came to nothing as Maria was murdered by another client. This led paradoxically to her being immortalised in stone by the grief stricken artist and for 125 years she has looked down on German businessmen and Polish theatre goers who have no idea of her sad story.
An interesting tale but what is the relevance to today? Firstly it shows that, despite what some campaigners say, not all clients are callous and uncaring people who see sex workers as nothing more than objects with orifices. Secondly it is a reminder that sex workers, then as now, are at risk of violence. Perhaps the gaze of the statue is, too, a look of reproach at the zealots who would make the lives of her twenty first century sisters so much more dangerous.