Research Proposal:

The courtesans in Venice during the Renaissance were considered a subculture within society. In fact, they were so popular, that men from all over Europe would visit Venice just to admire these women because of their rumored beauty. Perhaps the most well known of these Venetian courtesans is Veronica Franco. Known as the “honest courtesan,” Franco was a well-educated woman who wrote poetry as well as songs. Her profession did not only include being a courtesan, but she also earned a living by selling her words. Many famous artists depicted the lives and beauty of the courtesans including Carpaccio, Giacomo Franco, Titian, Giorgione, and Bordone. However, because of what we know about Franco’s life, it is possible that scholars are merely assuming that the unknown sitters in the works of the above artists are courtesans. I will discuss what it is that was written about Franco and why that has led scholars to label most of the Venetian female portraiture as depicting courtesans.

I will provide a lengthy discussion about the life of Veronica Franco and the artists that have chosen to depict her in their portraits. I will go into detail about her patrons, her life as seen through her own eyes, and the trial and debate that eventually led her to exile.

Naturally, a courtesan striving to be a part of the academic world during the Renaissance came with its hardships and Franco was no exception. Her ambition, determination, and struggles are what make her a remarkable, and more importantly successful, woman in a male-dominated society.

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