Sarah Dunant, bestselling author of the Italian renaissance trilogy The Birth of Venus (2003), In the Company of the Courtesan (2006) and Sacred Hearts (2008), and most recently Blood and Beauty (2013), shares the secrets of her trade. To recreate the past as a living, breathing place, Sarah has visited churches, archives, museums and art galleries all over Italy. In a sumptuously illustrated talk she tells the story of her discoveries: how the decoding of old paintings and the work of the most modern historians helped her to penetrate hidden worlds inside the Renaissance, finding wonder and drama in ordinary lives and exploring the complexities of politics and religion along with emotion, the senses and the heady appetites of body and soul.

This Power Lecture took place on 29 August 2013, as part of the Sydney Ideas program at the University of Sydney.



Sarah Dunant is a writer, broadcaster and critic who lives in London and Florence. While her early novels were mainly contemporary thrillers, her more recent publications are more historically based. Her recent bestselling trilogy explored the lives and perceptions of women in the Italian Renaissance. Dunant was a founding vice patron of the Orange Prize for women’s fiction, and sits on the editorial board of the Royal Academy Magazine. She also reviews for The Times, The Guardian, and The Independent on Sunday. Dunant teaches creative writing at The Faber Academy in London, and renaissance studies biennially at Washington University in St Louis. She is also a creative writing fellow at Oxford Brookes University.