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The Venetian authorities became concerned that it was impossible to distinguish between courtesans and respectable women. Rules drawn up in determined what the courtesans could wear. Please be aware that the information provided on this page may be out of date, or otherwise inaccurate due to the passage of time. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy. Copyright: Used with permission There was a red light district in Venice but there were also courtesans who were less obvious.
The authorities became concerned that it was impossible to distinguish between courtesans and respectable women. So rules were drawn up in to determine what courtesans wore. Rather than ban undesirables, Venetians tended to make rules to control them. Work was acceptable for poorer women. Prostitution was not the respectable option but in hard times women did turn to the oldest profession.
Copyright: Used with permission Coryat on courtesans: "her face is adorned with the quintessence of beauty. In her cheekes thou shalt see the Lilly and the Rose strive for the supremacy, and the silver tramels of her haire displayed in that curious manner besides her two frisled peakes standing up like prety Pyramides, that they give thee the true Cos amoris".
The document outlining the regulations on what courtesans were permitted to wear is in the state archive. Copyright: Used with permission We have in Venice Tintoretto's vast depiction of paradise, from which the awed observer was meant to draw the analogy of Venice as a paradise on earth. Thomas Coryat certainly came to this conclusion.
What is your opinion? You are given two different answers in the programme. One emphasises the uniqueness of Venice, arguing that myths grow from somewhere, that Venice was not perfect but nevertheless extraordinary. The other asks you to look at the murk below the glittering waters, and argues that all is not as it seems. Which seems most persuasive? Are the two interpretations wholly incompatible? What else do you need to know to convince you? There are various lines of enquiry that might prove useful here.