I went to see a lovely exhibit at the Legion of Honor on Friday. It's called Casanova: The Seduction of Europe. Putting aside my personal thoughts on Casanova's love life, and the idea of libertinism, which just like other sexual "freedom" revolutions, is never actually about sexual freedom of both sexes, more about men being free from responsibility and repercussions being all on the side of women, oooops I went there. You know what, actually this won't take long, here is what real sexual freedom and liberation is: women getting orgasms every.single.time and men being on birth control. See, that's not so complicated. Moving on, the exhibit presents a wonderful exploration of time and place and the people who made that time what it was.
These are my favorite types of exhibits, ones that combine traditional art (ie paintings), objets d'arts, fashion and well written and informative panels. There are mise en scene, Canaletto's views of Venice, serve ware, Rococo furniture and more. You get a wonderful sense of the time.
Casanova came from humble origins, his parents were actors (not a good thing, not like being Daniel Day Lewis' kid today), but a stroke of good luck landed him a patron. He was a very intelligent and talented man, by age 17 he already had his law masters from the University of Padua (he started there at 12), and even had a stint as a Violinist in a renowned Orchestra. But it was the refinement of high society that called to him, and Casanova used his charm, his acting abilities and his wit to move through Venetian high society as well as move in the circles of the Louis XV (he was a particular friend of Madame du Pompadour) and King George III of England (apparently not so mad when it came to socializing). It is certainly impressive. He reminds me a lot of the young man whom the Leonardo diCaprio film Catch Me If You Can is based. Very smart, but not a lot of patience for hard work. I remember Leo taking the bar exam without going to law school, and forging a UC Berkeley Diploma (I actually had to earn mine, but none the less, flattered that someone feels my degree means enough to fake it, if you know what I mean.)
Throughout the exhibit are quotes by Casanova and his contemporaries often focused on the idea of creating ones own identity. This is a notion we are much more familiar with today, of course constraints of birth and inherited wealth remain, but movement in society was extremely rigid in Casanova's day. Through charm and intelligence as well as a natural affinity for acting he moved in circles that would have been entirely prohibited to a man of his station if he had not combined his natural graces with some sheer good luck.
The final room is dedicated to a number of portraits of dignitaries and visionaries Casanova rubbed shoulders with, Benjamin Franklin, Catherine the Great, Louis XV, Voltaire, George III, Rousseau (although they didn't get on apparently)...
Casanova kept a journal and made a number of writings which we still have today, including his twelve volume (not too shabby) autobiography The Story of My Life (not to be confused with the One Direction song of the same title). There was a delightful little side bar on one of the information panels which mused that Casanova would most certainly have had a Blog and would have been an avid user of social media. I found this really interesting. Would we all be enjoying Casanova selfies, and Youtube posts if the man had lived two and a half centuries later? Perhaps. Though he may have worn a mask, because if you're too instafamous, it's probably difficult to make a jail escape and succeed, like Casanova did....twice!
This is how you used to have to visit your girlfriend (I say we bring this back, way better than Tinder. Actually you definitely need screens, no wait, actual walls for Tinder). In 18th Century Venice, many wealthy families sent their daughters to convents for "safe keeping." The young ladies wore very fine clothes and received visitors from behind a screen like this one, through which they could receive little gifts. Casanova carried on an affair with an actual nun (how noble of him).
A gorgeous postcard view of Venice, courtesy of Canaletto. These were actually the postcards of the day, really really really rich people's postcards. Canaletto rose to fame for his views of Venice. He went to London to paint the Thames, but the Thames is just so not the Grand Canal. Plus if you live in London, you want a painting of Venice, not London. Poor guy.
This was one of many lovely mise en scene throughout the exhibit displaying clothing, furniture and petit objets of everyday (read fancy) life.
This is the one who got away. Casanova was in love with this charming young woman, and they conducted some sort of a relationship for a number of years, though ultimately she decided to marry someone else. Gosh, can't think why...
You guys, I am such a fan....
My new ride. But seriously because I cannot get on the bus. ever. again. Thank you. These Venetians totally got it, you get carried around in one of these so your beautiful clothes don't touch the dirty streets. Why hasn't UBER thought of this?
I was in wall decal heaven with this exhibit. Literally could see any/all of it in my house, everywhere, every wall. The best. If you don't have a Haussmann in Paris, you should have this.
Venetians in Masks. Super original. hahahahaha, j/k, great painting by Domenico Tiepolo, little brother of the big deal Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
Some gorgeous Rococo furniture which should be placed in my home immediately after the exhibit has ended. Please and Thank You. Noteworthy: a lot of the ornate decorations were actually plaster add ons. Theatre pieces. And, with a little gold paint, anything can look 'spensive.
Some beautiful little Comedia dell Arte figurines, for the true modernist, also known as Tchatchkes. Incidentally an entire Poirot mystery revolves around a very similar group of figurines. The more you know...
Ah Venus. This babe has her shit together: born on a shell, married to a hot, buff metal worker and her side piece is Mars. Need I say more?