Costumes of Roman Women
1. The Roman Maiden
2. The Roman Bride
3. The Roman Matron
4. The Noble Roman Widow
5. The Roman Widow
6. The Roman Courtesan
Pietro Bertelli (Italian, Paduan, active late 16th–early 17th century)
Engravings; Each 9 x 6 1/4 in. (22.9 x 15.9 cm)
Bequest of Rudolph Gunter, 1962 (62.676.31.1)
Estate of Randolph Gunter, 1962 (62.676.31.2–6)
These engravings illustrating the costumes of Roman women from different stations of life recall the more ambitious series by Cesare Vecellio and Giacomo Franco devoted to Venetian customs and modes of attire. Similar to those examples, these images were likely created as book illustrations, though the enterprising Bertelli was known to reuse his inventions in a number of different contexts and formats.
Courtesans were essentially cultivated, high-class prostitutes. The presence of one of their ilk (plate 6) among the cast of otherwise "honest" women reflects the reality that courtesans were a staple in sixteenth-century society, their intractable presence either rued or tolerated depending on the prevailing moral and religious climate of the day. It is interesting that Bertelli's courtesan, like those of Franco, Vecellio, and Giulio Romano, wears a strand of pearls. Pearls were particularly associated with courtesans, as legal documents of the period amply attest, and were frequently given to courtesans and prostitutes by their clients and patrons as payment for "carnal commerce."