The Art of Love: Veronica Franco
Cari Vaughn, 2001
For my project I decided to begin writing a fictional novel based on the real life of the sixteenth century courtesan and poet Veronica Franco. Your first question is probably who is Veronica Franco? I didn’t know who Veronica Franco was either until I saw the movie Dangerous Beauty. Dangerous Beauty came out in 1998 and stars Catherine McCormack as Veronica Franco, Rufus Sewell as Marco Venier, Oliver Platt as Maffio Venier, Fred Ward as Domenico Venier, Naomi Watts as Giulia De Lezze, Moira Kelly as Beatrice Venier, Jacqueline Bisset as Paola Franco and Melina Kanakaredes as Livia. It was produced by Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick and Sarah Caplan. Herskovitz and Zwick also produced Legends of the Fall, Thirty-Something and My So-Called Life. Sarah Caplan went on to produce Felicity, Alias and Brothers and Sisters.
The movie was written by Jeannine Dominy and was based on the book The Honest Courtesan by Margaret Rosenthal. The book The Honest Courtesan was packed full of information, but was very dry and academic. I had to re-read it several times in order to piece together a clear picture of Veronica Franco. Not a lot is known about her, so Rosenthal chose to explore the time in which she lived in order to piece together what resources she might have had.
Anyway, Franco was born in 1546 and died in 1591. Her mother had been a courtesan before her, and was the one to introduce her into the profession. She had three brothers, who were most likely fishermen. Her father was absent from her life. There is no mention of how she become educated, but it is assumed that she sat in on the tutoring that her brothers received. Not having enough money dowry to marry well and refusing to enter a convent or become a maid, she became a courtesan at sixteen years old. Courtesans were not just prostitutes; they were cultured and educated women, who were seen as beautiful and elegant. They were trained to dress and act like ladies of the court and often lived very comfortable lives. Some of the courtesans, like Veronica Franco, were eventually married, but still continued their line of work. Being a courtesan offered freedoms that being simply single or married did not have. A courtesan had access to the libraries at court and was able to take part of the literary salons of the day.
Today Veronica Franco’s life and poetry are studied by scholars. It is agreed upon that she was more outspoken than most women and very frank about her abilities, both on the page and on the sheet. She was able to mimic the form of poetry that was popular during her time, but also able to reinvent it to suit her purpose and self-expression. Her poetry and letters are indeed interesting to read and study.
A biography, several articles and several dissertations have been written about her, as well as an unpublished movie script. No one has thought to fictionalize her life though, so I decided to do just that. A fictional story, I feel, will allow me to explore a lot of issues in a very creative way. There are many issues that we went over in our Feminist Theory and Women Writers class that are relevant here—gender, class, sexual politics, the body and social status or role just to name a few.
The movie, I noticed, was not completely true to her life. It did not mention that she was married or had children or that she died in poverty. The movie was focused on her relationship to Marco, but it portrayed them as star-crossed lovers, and that might not have been realistic. The movie also glossed over many pertinent issues, particularly onesconcerning her education.
Campbell, Julie Delynn. Renaissance Women Writers: The Beloved Speaks Her
Part. (Italy, France.) Texas A&M University, 1997.
Emck, Kathy. A Wanton Woman and A Wise Woman: Women Writing About
Desire in the Italian Renaissance and Europe 1540-1620. (Margarite De
Navarre, France, Mary Wroth and Veronica Franco, Italy) University of
Franco, Veronica. Poems and Selected Letters. Edited and Translated by
Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret Rosenthal. University of Chicago Press,
Griffin, Susan. The Book of Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues.
Broadway Books, New York, 2001.
Hsu, Carmen Yu-Chich. Courtesans in the Literature of Spanish Golden Ages.
Harvard University, 2000.
Kumar, Veena. Feminine Voice and Mythology in Sixteenth Century Italian
Lyric Poetry. (Renaissance, Women Poets) The University of Wisconsin,
Jones, Ann Rosalind. The Currency of Eros: Women’s Love Lyric in Europe
1540-1620. Indiana University. Indiana University Press, 1990.
Rosenthal, Margaret. The Honest Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and
Writer in Sixteenth Century Venice. University of Chicago Press,
Schuonbrun, Shelia. Ambiguous Artists: Music Making Among Sixteenth
Century Italian Renaissance Courtesans (With Particular Reference to
Tullia of Aragon, Guspara Stamp and Veronica Franco) CUNY, 1998.
Stortoni, Laura and Mary Prentice Lillie. Women Poets of the Italian
Renaissance: Courtly Ladies and Courtesans. Italica Press, New York,
Asimov, Michael. “Dangerous Beauty: The Trail of a Courtesan.” UCLA Law
School. May 1998. http://www.usfca.edu/pj/articles/dangerousbeauty/htm.
Blackwater, Rob. Different Views of “Beauty:” 30 Minutes of Dangerous Beauty director Marshal Herskovitz. February 6. 1998.
Tucker, Carol. “Dressed (or Undressed) For Success.” April 2, 1999. http://www.usc.edu/extelations/news_service/chronical.html/1995.03.27.html/o6.DRESSED.html
“Giving a Voice to Laura and Beatrice: Veronica Franco’s Rime and the Reshaping of Stereotype.” http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Crete/6369/vila.htm.