So how would a courtesan advertise themselves? Often it came down to subtle signals and word of mouth. While it would be logical to think they would wear taller chopines, have longer trains or more lavish dress, this was not always reliable as Noblewomen tried to draw the eye in the same manner. The only sign I can trace is a move I have coined as the “courtesan peek”. Women when outdoors often wore veils that covered their faces, thus giving them protection not only from the sun but also gave them anonymity thus protecting them from them tempting influences. Yet we see time and time again drawings showing some women lifting and peaking out from under their veils. How provocative this might have been for a gentleman on the street, a touch forbidden, all the while revealing herself to be a courtesan in a subtle manner.
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de Heer, Courtesan and widow
Album Amicorum of a German Soldier
De gli Habiti antichi et moderni di Diverse Parti del Mondo' Cesare Vecellio- Venetian courtesan outdoors
Venetian courtesan in 'Mores Italiae'
Pauwels Franck (Paolo Fiammingo) Venetian Women Location Unknown ca. 1595