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Rapper Nicki Minaj was transformed into into an 18th-century courtesan for W’s sixth annual Art Issue, Photographer/artist Francesco Vezzoli, whose work consistently taps into fashion and celebrity culture, refashioned Minaj into the Marquise de Montespan and some of her contemporaries. And of course, Minaj is clad in all manner of elaborate contemporary designer haute couture, (Vera Wang and Dior) with David Yurman jewelry.
Vezzoli has produced a trailer for a mock remake of Caligula, appropriately cast with Courtney Love, made a fake-fragrance commercial starring Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams. He transformed Eva Mendes into Bernini’s painting “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” for the 2011 Venice Biennale and, for MOCA’s 2009 30th-anniversary gala, he reimagined Lady Gaga as a latter-day Ballets Russes dancer.
Vezzoli, explains his Minja concept:
“In her performances, Minaj makes very explicit and challenging use of her beauty and her body, so I thought of comparing her to some of the most famous courtesans in history: the Marquise de Montespan, Comtesse du Barry, Madame de Pompadour, and Madame Rimsky-Korsakov. My idea was to reproduce four iconic portraits of some of the most fascinating females of the past in a series starring an American pop-culture role model. We tried to re-create those original portraits using similar furniture, props, and clothing, à la Visconti. Luckily enough, the result came out as surreal as it could be, just as I wished.”
Just to set the record straight, according to History Undressed, courtesans were actually glorified prostitutes, far more educated and refined than street walkers or call girls, but nevertheless paid sexual partners and escorts for the royal, noble and wealthy men of society.
The salons of famous well-educated courtesans were hot spots, always attended by renowned artists, poets, members of local authority and foreign noblemen. Many salons would regularly feature conversations about literature, poetry and arts as well as fine wines and foods. Visitors of such salons left mentions of courtesans in their literature works. And courtesans’ portraits were also painted by famous artists that these that inspired W’s photo spread.
To see more of Minaj’s stunning courtesan transformations, click here
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