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...

Enjoy!
Sources: http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/IWW/BIOS/A0017.html
http://encyclopedia.stateuniversity.com/pages/22968/Veronica-Franco.html
http://home.infionline.net/~ddisse/franco.html

NOTE:

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.

20 comments:

Jane Austen said...

I love Veronica Franco and wished that there were some historical fiction books about her. I just think she is fascinating.

Ms. Lucy said...

Hi:) You should read Margaret F. Rosenthal's -it's good. Thanks:)

Cinderella said...

I'd never heard of her before - very interesting!

lizzy J said...

I have not heard of her either. Sounds like my kind of lady, brought out on a platter, he he.

Ms. Lucy said...

Cinderella- I'm just wondering if you check out Henri III if she ever comes up at all..

Lizzy- I do think that actually happened cause I've read it in quite a few places..

Robinbird said...

I have been interested in her since I saw the movie "Dangerous Beauty" many years ago. While I am aware that they changed things for dramatic purposes (don't watch it if you are afraid of seeing A LOT of skin!) it sparked my interest. I, too, would love to see a historical fiction novel about her. I haven't been able to get my hands on Rosenthal's book.

Ms. Lucy said...

Hi Robinbird- I haven't seen the movie..but I did hear it was a bit racy..

Arleigh said...

I've seen this image you have displayed somewhere recently... can't remember where. Interesting lady, a courtesan and from Venice (makes great reading for you)!

Roberta said...

Thanks for the book referral...Ms. Lucy...I own "Dangerous Beauty" and watch it alot...oh la la Very well made movie with a love story and adult material...now I'd love to read a book...has to have some adult material mixed in with the history to keep me reading though...thanks, have a great weekend, fondly, Roberta

Ms. Lucy said...

Arleigh- You've seen this one before on my Salon de Josephine...where I compare pope, empress and courtesan..

Robert- I'm planning on renting it soon- I've seen it before though-

Thanks:)

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

Oohh...I will have to check this movie out myself at blockbuster and learn more about Ms. Franco's escapades. I recently watched The Affair of the Necklace (starring Hilary Swank) for the first time, not the best (nor was it a very favorable portrayal of Marie-Antoinette ::sigh::), but the costumes were gorgeous. Lucy, do you have any other historical films you recommend?

Ms. Lucy said...

Hey Allie:) Check the short clip on my sidebar on Josephine and Napoleon(towards the bottom)...that is such a good movie! I think you have to go to specialty place to rent though- i don't know if blockbuster would have it..it's foreign so I watcherd it in French but it's in English also. Thanks:)

Lola said...

I am in a full Venetian writing swing these days. So these Venezia-inspired posts are just the juicy fuel I needed.

Did I ever tell you I was ALMOST hired on the film shot in Italy some years ago, The Honest Courtesan?

Ciao,
Lola xx

Ms. Lucy said...

Lola- You're joking! In what shot?
I can't wait for your Venetian articles..we'll have to link eachother;)

Ingrid Mida said...

How interesting that one could be an honourable courtesan! Her life is fascinating - worthy of a book!

Sheila (bookjourney) said...

This looks wonderful!

Ms. K @ Write On Thyme said...

Hi Ms. Lucy~ Do let me know when you've seen the movie "Dangerous Beauty". Would love to know what you think of it. I loved it and thought Catherine McCormack was fabulous in it. Will have to look for the Rosenthal book as I too would like to read more about her.
Thanks for this post!
Kirsten

Mirella Sichirollo Patzer said...

Thanks for telling us about The Honest Cortesan. I'm always devouring books about Italians, especially women.

sallymandy said...

So, I'm very late to this discussion, but this is the one that's going to make me go right over to Amazon and try to find a used copy of the book about The Honest Courtesan. Fascinating post as usual, dear. xo

avisannschild said...

I loved the movie Dangerous Beauty; I must look up the book about Franco.