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Veronica Franco

Poet and courtesan

Veronica Franco by Tintoretto

Veronica Franco (1546-91), was a famous Renaissance courtesan and poet, the daughter of a courtesan. She had three brothers and was educated along with them, and married briefly to a doctor whom she soon divorced.

Franco was the ideal Venetian Renaissance courtesan: well read, wise, fair and reasonable, a sparkling conversationalist and familiar with the classics, able to play the lute and spinet. She would go on to have six children by different men, three of whom survived childhood.

She began writing poetry, and attended the literary salon of her friend and patron Domenico Venier in the 1570s. In 1575 she published 17 poems in her Terze Rime, about her life as a courtesan, frankly discussing sex and defending women from men who would attack and belittle them; she also challenges the Petrarchian ideal of the distant, fickle, unattainable beloved, promoting conversation between the sexes.

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Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by PD Art