Thursday, August 6, 2009
Veronica Franco: Another Famous Venetian...
With all this talk about courtesans, book reviews and all- I thought it would be interesting to post about a very famous Venetian one named Veronica Franco.
Born in 1546, this famous Venetian courtesan and poet, learned the trade from her mother Paola Fracassa, once a courtesan herself. Veronica had three brothers and it is from their tutoring that she too was inspired to become an intellectual, well versed in poetry, music, Greek and Roman literature.
Venice was the place to be for a courtesan of the 16th century. Everything revolved around the arts and culture- something that would come second nature to Veronica. In Venice, she was known as an ‘honest’ courtesan, one who was learned in a form of art, besides her profession, and could also be remunerated in this way to earn an honest living. Being a poet and musician set her apart from the regular courtesans ‘di lume’ (dim light girls, or street prostitutes). Veronica’s name was listed in the book of ‘honorable courtesans of Venice.’
Veronica Franco was part of the higher nobility of Venice. She frequented people of influential status and was always part of the very literary world. She was a regular at Venier’s literary salon and often was a guest of his palace as well, where she routinely participated in discussions actively contributing to the editing of major poetry anthologies. Veronica published a volume of ‘letters of her youth’ as well as a volume on poetry: Le Terze Rime. In her letters, she also addresses Henri III of France, who apparently visited her regularly…She also gives homage to Tintoretto for having painted her portrait.
Before starting her career as a courtesan, Veronica was married for a brief time to a notable doctor, Paolo Panizza. The marriage ended on a sour note. Believing in human equality, Veronica could never be tamed into pressured submissiveness- she was merely 18 years-old. After the split, Veronica felt compelled to complement her artistic work in order to support herself financially. Being a courtesan helped her make the right connections; meanwhile her poetry and rhetoric became the voice for underprivileged, battered an abused women who had none.
Both lines of work helped fulfill her profession and propel her into great wealth. Consequently, Veronica created an organization that helped courtesans and their children. Throughout her endeavors, Veronica always had a full house of mouths to feed. Besides her own three living children (of six), Veronica also provided food, shelter, and in some cases, education, to nieces, nephews, orphaned children, servants and tutors. Her home was the place for musical concerts (she played the lute), banquets and feasts; where great artists, musicians and noblemen were regular guests.
…It was said that on one occasion when the future King Henri III was the guest of honor at her place, Veronica was brought out (naked) on a long, elegant serving platter for his majesty…hmmm
However, all splendor of a lavish life was brutally put to an end in 1575 by the plague of Venice- Veronica had to flee the country. When she finally returned, she was devastated to find that not only all of her great wealth was gone- she was also being falsely accused by the Inquisition, for sorcery in attracting and luring men through magical spells. It was documented that Veronica, with much dignity, brilliantly defended herself against all accusations in her vibrant Venetian dialect filled with rhetoric and ingenious responses. She was acquitted of all charges.
Little is known of how she lived the rest of her life, but many accounts suggest that she never regained her wealth and was believed to have died in meager surroundings- with not much to account for. She died in 1591 at the age of forty-five.
Here is one of her quotes:
“When we too are armed and trained, we can convince men that we have hands, feet and a heart like yours; and although we may be delicate and soft, some men who are delicate are also strong; and others, coarse and harsh, are cowards. Women have not yet realized this, for if they should decide to do so, they would be able to fight you until death; and to prove that I speak the truth, amongst so many women, I will be the first to act, setting an example for them to follow.”
Author Margaret F. Rosenthal has written a superb book on Veronica Franco: The Honest Courtesan
Subsequently, a movie: Dangerous Beauty was made based on her life. If you click on this link you can watch a youTube clip of the movie...they seem to have deactivated the html for copying or posting...
I would definitely consider Veronica Franco for the Woman Unbound Challenge series because of the choices that she made for herself-notwithstanding the consequences of these. Veronica Franco accepted to live her own life according to her own rules while using her strenths to achieve success. Her true passion was in her writing- something that was denied to women of her times. Her voice needed to be heard and her only vehicle of transmitting her message was by achieving some sort of popularity and recognition.
Although she used her intellingence, beauty, charms, and a very controversial form of networking, to get her work published and her career settled- she was often scorned and rebuked for this. Yet, she never gave up and turned what could have been a degrading fate for her, into a lucrative business, helping her not only put food on the table for herself, but her whole family as well. She helped other women survive and also helped create shelters and aid for women who would have othersise been left to their own sad and poor demise. Her work is now acclaimed and her fame is still a result of her unrelenting strengths.
Posted by Lucy at 11:46 AM