The Art of the Courtesan in Renaissance Italy

The last meeting of The Arts Society Coventry (TASC) for the 2021-22 series will be held as usual at the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery on June 28th. Sarah Dunant, the eminent art historian, novelist, broadcaster and critic, and author of the novel: In the Company of the Courtesan, a New York Times best seller translated into 30 languages, will talk about THE ART OF THE COURTESAN IN RENAISSANCE ITALY.

This lovely young woman was painted by Titian in 1534 in Venice. She is the first naked woman in the history of post Christian art to be looking directly at the artist and viewer, which she does without shame or guile. Though the painting is now known as The Venus of Urbino, the model was a courtesan.

In an age where the church demanded celibacy outside marriage, where figurative art was highly valued and rich high-class men married late to virginal women to whom they did not expect to be faithful, modelling for an artist was an attractive job for a beautiful and intelligent woman. Many became, or already were, courtesans: cultured, clever and as fashionable as they were lovely. This lecture will name names and tell stories, with some wonderful images to match.

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, doors open 6.30 pm, lecture 7.00 – 8.00 pm. Free to TASC members, non-members £10 at the door, students £5.

For membership details, email

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