Venus by Titian and the Venetian courtesansHistorical Curiosities
Venus by Titian and the Venetian courtesans
The splendid ‘Venus of Urbino' by Titian Vecellio is a true masterpiece, painted by the famous Venetian painter in 1538 for the Duke of Urbino Guidobaldo della Rovere.
According to tradition, the beautiful woman may have represented a Venetian courtesan and in fact, her alluring look and sensuality can be easily connected to ‘an 'expert of love.'
In Venice, the phenomenon of courtesans was well tolerated and sometimes even encouraged, for fear of homosexuality. According to a census of 1509, there were 11,164 and by the first half of 14th century, the courtesans were obliged to live in a neighbourhood near Rialto called ‘il Castelletto' where there was a bridge called 'Delle Tette' (‘of the boobs') because on this bridge the courtesans used to show their breasts to entice passers-by.
The activities and behaviours of the courtesans were meticulously regulated by the Republic of Venice and in the evening when the prostitutes returned home they faced a fine and 10 lashes and 15 lashes if they approached men at Christmas, Easter and other holy days. There were two classes of courtesans: those of low rank, who lived in an unhealthy house frequented by the populace, and those of high rank, who were envied by noblewomen, subjected to a thousand rules, for the freedom that they enjoyed, and for important friendships that they could make. For them, there was a kind of register, which was especially useful for foreigners visiting the city, where they could find names, prices and art skills, such as dance and music, in which the various courtesans excelled.
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