More on Venice: The Girl with the Yellow Veil

Just a quick post to tell you about my second Venetian project:

SARRA, YELLOW VEIL. The story of Sarra Coppia Sullam.

Cover photo from the series Sarra, Yellow Veil © Bettiena Drukker

The highly educated poetess, writer, musician and salonnière of the ghetto. Intelligent, witty, beautiful Sarra from the first half of the 17th century. Who had a long lasting correspondence with Ansaldo Cebà, a Genovese monk thirty years her senior. In many letters he tried to get her to convert to Christianity, which once made her suggest he would convert to Judaism (ouch!). In spite of their different religions, the fact that she was married, and that he was sworn to celibacy, their letters sometimes got quite steamy. But they never met.

Although she experienced great sadness in losing her baby daughter and suffering several miscarriages, socially life was good. Sarra surrounded herself with intellectuals, scholars, artists, teachers, who frequented her house and further educated her.

The Sadness. From the series Sarra, Yellow Veil © Bettiena Drukker

Until one of them, Baldessare Bonifacio, inexplicably turned against her and published a tractate: ‘Immortalità dell’Anima’, in which he accused her of denying this immortality of the soul. This would have been a mortal sin in both Christianity and Judaism. Sarra was recovering from a serious illness, but in only two days she wrote a scathing reply. She also sent a letter to Cebà for support. It took him months to reply, and then he only told her to . . . convert.

Trouble didn’t end there. Another of her regular visitors, her poetry teacher Numidio Paluzzi, turned against her too. With the help of Sarra’s servants, he devised a plan to rob her, ridiculously enough claiming it was the work of spirits.

We don’t really know how all this affected Sarra. She died in February 1641, after a three-month illness.

So Far from Home. From the series Sarra, Yellow Veil © Bettiena Drukker

The question is, of course, what triggered the men surrounding this exceptional woman to behave in the way that they did. The answer probably lies within the question – the mere fact that she was a woman, and Jewish to boot, is more than likely at least a big chunk of the reason.

With very special thanks to Nyncke Beekhuyzen, ‘my’ wonderful, gorgeous Sarra.

On Sunday, January 30th I will be giving an online lecture about this project, in cooperation with The Poorters (Burghers) of Venice. The English version will be held at 5 pm CET. If you would like to attend, book here.

It will set you back € 15, which is more than our usual talks, but that’s because it’s a charity thing – next time we’ll be back to half that amount. Promise.

Hope to see you then!

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