Tullia d'Aragona

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Tullia d'Aragona (c. 1510–1556) was a 16th century Italian courtesan, author and philosopher in Venice. She had one daughter, Penelope d'Aragona, born in 1535, and a son, Celio, by Silvestro Guiccardi.

Her work has recently been revived in the University of Chicago's "The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe" series, which deals with texts from Renaissance era female authors, as well as male advocates of women's emancipation from that era. More recently, an anthology of her poetry and prose has been reprinted.


Tullia was born to a courtesan herself, Giulia Ferrarese, in Rome, c. 1510. Her mother was lauded as "the most famous beauty of her day". Her father's identity is unknown, although it may have been Cardinal Luigi d'Aragona, who was himself the illegitimate grandson of Ferdinand I of Naples.

Tullia was educated by the Cardinal and proved to be an infant prodigy who amazed even her mother's 'guests'.


Interestingly enough, Tullia's fame and success as the most celebrated of Renaissance courtesans was not hampered by the fact that she was not considered physically attractive in a time when Renaissance Italy worshipped beauty, namely, petite, full-bodied blondes. Tall and curveless with large thin lips and a hooked nose, her physical shortcomings were apparently vastly and easily overcome by her intellect and cunning, such that men, both powerful and famous poets, fell in love with her and the general public treated her like a...
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