One of the most famous people in Renaissance Venice was not an artist, duke, noble, doge, pope or even wealthy merchant. But she did know all of them.
Veronica Franco, a poet, publisher, and high society intellect was also known cortigiana onesta: an honored courtesan. The famed artist Tintoretto painted her multiple times, sometimes etching her name on the back and sometimes not. Her notoriety led to multiple books, movies, and even a musical about her. She was the toast of the town in 1565, the Kim Khardashian of her day. Except that the Khardashians haven’t been called before the Inquisition. Yet.
Honored Courtesan, no Mere Prostitute
Cortigiana meant, for women, a position parallel to a male courtier, a word with connotations of splendor and high cultural accomplishments. Onesta can translate as “honest,” and biographers of her have used that adjective. But used with the courtier, it meant privileged, wealthy, recognized.
She was respected for her poetry as much as for her beauty. Some poems were sonnets, love poems, but others were early expression of feminist ideas:
Continue reading “V is for Veronica Franco”
When we women, too, have weapons and training,Franco: A Challenge to a Poet Who Has Defamed Her, from monstrousregimentofwomen.com
we will be able to prove to all men
that we have hands and feet and hearts like yours;
and though we may be tender and delicate,
some men who are delicate are also strong,
and some, though coarse and rough, are cowards.