Life Imitates Myth – The Renaissance Cortesan

Abstract: During the Italian Renaissance, mythology and art contributed to the increasing popularity of the cortigiana, or courtesan. The Cinquecento, or 1500s, in Italy coincided with the rise of a very unique category of elite prostitute called “honest” or “honored” (onesta or onorata) courtesan in recognition of their elevated social position and special talents. The cortigiana created an image to suit the tastes of a clientele possessing ideals of womanliness which were carried through the ages from ancient times and spiced up with a bit of humanism and Neoplatonism. These women modeled themselves after the classic hetaera and promised both sexual delight and aesthetic enchantments in the most graceful, cultivated, and beautiful settings. Cortigiana took care to resemble ladies of the court in dress, mannerisms, and social function, entertaining with conversation, song, poetry, and musical accomplishments (Henriques, 1965). It was her profession to embody the aristocratic repertoire of desirable traits in all areas except chastity.

Life Imitates Myth (Click for Research Paper Link)


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