"I resolved to make a virtue of my need."
(capitolo 19, line 62)
“When we women, too, have weapons and training,
we will be able to prove to all men
that we have hands and feet and hearts like yours.”
(capitolo 16, lines 64-66)
Veronica Franco (1546-1591), the most famous courtesan of renaissance Venice, was a poet, proto-feminist and philanthropist. As a cortigiana onesta, or “honored courtesan,” Franco belonged to a literary and social elite. In renaissance Europe, a courtesan was a highly paid sexual entertainer whose prestige as beauty, conversationalist, and companion to famous men made her a star of the city she lived in. Franco played music, wrote in contemporary and classical genres, and collaborated with prominent writers, artists, and thinkers of the late sixteenth-century. Through her social and literary interactions, Franco gained access to influential literary salons and published her works. Her letters and poems (Poems in Terza Rima, Familiar Letters) brought her fame--a notable accomplishment considering that sixteenth-century women in Italy were not allowed a public education. Her poems and letters are often frankly erotic and persuasively pro-woman. This proto-feminism carried over into creating a charitable institution -- Casa del Soccorso -- that provided young Venetian women with a refuge from the dangers of prostitution.
An independent-minded courtesan, accomplished intellectual, and compassionate woman, Franco and her legacy continue to appeal to modern readers in the 21st century as much as she did to women and men of the Renaissance nearly five centuries ago.
The Veronica Franco Project is an interdisciplinary database that honors her extraordinary life and work. The releases of Margaret F. Rosenthal’s The Honest Courtesan (1992) and the Warner Brother’s film, Dangerous Beauty (1998), adapted from her book, led to an exciting growth in global interest on Franco, and catalyze d our need to develop a website that explores the many facets of Franco. We hope this will help foster intellectual discussions among academic and non-academic audiences.
Our ongoing research addresses both historical and modern questions about Franco and related issues. We explore cross-cultural connections between courtesans and geishas; art historical images of renaissance women in relation to courtesans; costume and fashion history; and Franco's pertinence in the 21st century.
We provide news updates on courtesan and Franco related performances, lectures, conferences, events and popular culture references. The Broadway-bound musical, Dangerous Beauty, is the latest manifestation of this fascination with Franco that we are excited to follow.
Guided by your toolbar menu on the left, please feel free to explore this database. While we have a lot of information up now, we'll be updating it regularly.