Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Courtesans and Art
"I thought, 'Who else could she be but a courtesan?' Now work being done on Titian's letters shows we're pretty certain she was."
The Venus Of Urbino inspired Fiammetta Bianchini, the talented, high-class prostitute in Dunant's latest historical novel, In The Company Of The Courtesan.
In the Company of the Courtesan - Sydney Morning Herald Review.
I love Art History. I love reading Books about Art, Art History and Art Mysteries.
My favourite painters are the Flemish & Dutch painters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer. But I also like some of the Italian painters like Titian, Caravaggio and Canaletto, and lastly my favourite Impressionist is Renoir. And of course Leonardo is in there as well, but he's more of a scientist, engineer & inventor rather than a painter, but his paintings are brilliant as well.
I've noticed a number of other books about courtesans on the shelves, which means that of course they are a hot topic. It probably comes out of the success of the Novel Memoirs of a Geisha, since Geisha are sort of like courtesans as well, even if they were not actually at court.
I read once that Courtesans were more like escorts rather than actual prostitutes. They were educated, could read, write, play music and dance, usually knew enough about the topics of the day to hold a decent conversation, and in general just helped the men to relax without actually being intimate. That is my understanding of what a Courtesan was. It turns out I was right.
The closest modern equivalent is the geisha, she [Sarah Dunant] says. "Courtesans play musical instruments, they read poetry, discuss politics and love sonnets, and they also deliver in the bedroom - they have a great portfolio."
Dunant, an award-winning thriller writer and creator of private detective Hannah Wolfe, switched to historical novels in 2004 with The Birth Of Venus, set in Renaissance Florence.
In The Company Of The Courtesan, her second novel in this period, follows Fiammetta and her companion, the dwarf Bucino, as they flee the 1527 sacking of Rome to begin again in the decadent metropolis of Venice.
I also have had sitting on my hard-drive (for quite some time now) a picture of Titian's daughter Lavinia. I've been waiting for the right time to use it, and I think the time is now. This was painted in 1561.