Today, on the anniversary of his death, we will tell you the story of Giacomo Casanova.
Casanova, as we all know, is an eponym for “being a Don Giovanni” (to use another Italian eponym), a womanizer, a man who has had many, many women.
But, as the title says, Giacomo Casanova was really unlucky, he really fell in love and suffered a lot. He lived through an incredible number of vicissitudes. His story is singular, daring, particular and very Venetian, that’s why we want to tell you about it.
And these same reasons have led many, besides us, to narrate it.
Childhood and youth of Giacomo Casanova
Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice on April 2, 1725 in one of the houses located in Calle Malipiero (near Palazzo Grassi): a slab of marble today recalls the event.
In this calle, where he was born, the museum dedicated to him has recently been inaugurated: an interactive exhibition: https://www.facebook.com/casanovamuseum
He completed his first studies of him in Padua, while his ancestors claimed to come from Spain and from the house of Palafox. But, far from this illustrious origin, his father was first a dancer, then an actor, and married the daughter of a shoemaker. Giacomo was the eldest of his sons.
His progress at the University of Padua was fairly rapid in the Latin language; he also studied law and wrote two essays at the age of sixteen. The patriarch of Venice, to whom Giacomo was introduced, admitted him to the road to the clergy.
Casanova’s precocious gifts and the pleasures of his mind gave him access to the first societies of Venice, where a frivolous and refined tone reigned at that time. Soon the vivacity of his passions and the ardor of his character led him on many adventures. A series of scandals and various love intrigues caused him to be kicked out of the seminary, and he also suffered imprisonment at Fort Saint-André.
But his mother, then an actress in Warsaw, by means of powerful protections, ended up opening an ecclesiastical career for him.
The first trips and the first misfortunes
Giacomo Casanova, after a trip to Abruzzo, found a place in Rome with Cardinal Acquaviva, who put him in contact with Pope Benedict XIV and with the most brilliant society in Rome. An excellent prospect opened up before him; but new intrigues made him lose his job.
He wandered, along with an actress. Here he already depended on a woman, so you understand where the reputation of “loser” comes from! With Italy being the theater of war, Casanova fell into a Spanish army corps, then into an Austrian corps, from which he escaped.
He went first as an infantry officer stationed in Corfu, and on leave made a trip to Constantinople; there he came into contact with the famous Earl of Bonneval. When his leave expired, he returned to Corfu and, after various adventures, returned to Venice and left his military service.
As soon as he was eighteen, Casanova had seen Rome, Naples, Corfu, Constantinople; and he had already been from time to time a student, a doctor, a publicist, a preacher, a seminarian, an abbot, a diplomat, a soldier and a man of fortune.
He soon started the school of doom for Casanova. He became a struggling artist and also played the violin at the Venice theater. Having accidentally saved the life of Senator Bragadin, of the kabbalistic sect, Casanova became his favorite.
And, flattering his mania, he pretended to be initiated into the occult sciences. The senator adopted him as a son and made him his friend and oracle. But, due to new detours, Casanova was again forced to leave Venice. He then went to Milan, Mantua, Cesena, Parma and Geneva. Returning to Venice, under the patron of Senator Bragadin, who considered him a chosen one from heaven, he spent his time there in pleasure and play.
The rebirth and relapse of Giacomo Casanova
Without a definitive plan, Casanova made his first trip to Paris, where he initially stayed for some time. He described the society of this city in that historical moment, a very vivid and very curious picture in his memoirs entitled : Storia della mia vita.
Back in Venice, Casanova resumes his “lifestyle” there; but he, secretly denounced, he was locked up in 1755 in the famous prison of the Piombi, from where, after a detention full of accidents, he escaped with admirable audacity and presence of mind.
Here begins a new period in his life. In 1757 he went back to Paris and was immediately in contact with Cardinal de Bernis whom he had met in Venice. He also attended high society, and went into political affairs.
After a fairly long stay in France, he went to Switzerland. There he met Voltaire and the famous Haller. From Switzerland, crossing the Savoy, he went via Grenoble to Avignon, Marseille, Toulon and Nice, and then returned to Paris via Florence, Bologna and Turin.
It was in Florence that he met Suvorov, whose fame was still growing; his relationship with this famous warrior and commander is not without interest. The misfortune of Giacomo Casanova is that he could not settle anywhere, being a fugitive.
He lived sometimes in Paris, sometimes in the south of France and in Germany, then in Switzerland and Lombardy, until he seemed to want to stay in London, where he began a brilliant career, but which ended in a deplorable way.
Travelling around Europe
Casanova first chose northern Germany as his new home, which also became the scene of his adventures. His links in Prussia with the Count of Schwerin gave him the opportunity to be introduced to the great Frederick.
In Berlin he formed a strong friendship with Calsiabigi, the same one who established lotteries in Prussia. When there was talk of appointing him a teacher at the Cadet House, he suddenly left Berlin, went to Riga and St. Petersburg.
There he had several audiences with the Empress Catherine. He went to Warsaw with high hopes for his future; but his fortune in Poland was lost following his famous duel with the Polish nobleman Branicki. From Warsaw he went to Dresden, and from there, via Praga, to Vienna; but he was forbidden to stay there.
He headed to Munich and Augusta, then to Aix-la-Chapelle; he then went to Spa, where the highest society in Europe could be met. From Spa he returned to Paris but was forced to go to Madrid, which later became the destination of his travels; there he found himself in a very curious relationship with Mengs, the Earl of Aranda, the Duke of Medina-Coeli and Olavide.
Returning to France via Barcelona and Montpellier, he spent some time in Aix-en-Provence; It was there that he particularly met the Marquis d’Argens and the famous Cagliostro, a man of his own caliber. Casanova left Aix to return to Rome and Naples; his usual love affairs made his stay in these two cities very pleasant until his departure for Venice, his birthplace.
The return to Venice and the last few years
To enter the favor of the Venetian government, he wrote the refutation of the work of Amelot de la Houssaye on the constitution of Venice; and in fact he was somehow rehabilitated at home in 1774, after having spent eighteen years traveling.
Casanova claimed to have rendered important services to the Republic of Venice ever since; they were undoubtedly secret services. After a short stay in Venice, he returned to Paris in 1782. And it is with the connection of this last stay in France that the manuscript of the Memoirs of him closes.
One day, having dinner in Paris with the Ambassador of Venice, he met Count Waldstein. There was talk of occult sciences and alchemy that Casanova knew well; Count Waldstein was amazed at the profound knowledge of him, which belonged only to the most initiated. I think Casanova is an ancestor of Jimmy Page or Aleisteir Crowley!
In any case, Waldstein immediately proposed to Casanova to go and live in his homeland in Bohemia, to work there together. Casanova, who only wanted rest and tranquility, accepted. He took over the direction of the library of Count Waldstein at the castle of Dux, and dedicating himself to literature he took care of the writing of his Memoirs.
Giacomo Casanova died on 4 June 1798. It is assumed that his body was buried in the small church of Santa Barbara, near the castle of Dux. But regarding the problem of the correct identification of Giacomo Casanova’s burial place, and also of the date of certain death, the news is however rather vague. There are currently only hypotheses that are not properly documented.
Il lascito di Giacomo Casanova
Giacomo Casanova in life had no luck as a man of letters, despite the numerous works … we said he was a loser! He was successful after his death, particularly with the aforementioned Memoirs.
From the beginning of the 20th century, however, his image was re-established and his daring life was used as material for films, TV series, musical works and even video games!
Films about Giacomo Casanova we have more than two dozen, starting from 1918, passing to “Il Casanova di Federico Fellini” of 1976 up to the Hollywood Casanova of 2005 starring Heath Ledger, Jeremy Irons, Lena Olin, Sienna Miller and some friends who made the extras (they shot it in Venice).
In the same year, 2005, a telefilm about Casanova was released in the United Kingdom, showing how much this figure has influenced popular culture, not just Italian.
As we said before, a video game was also made on today’s protagonist. Casanova: the duel of the black rose, graphic adventure of 2001, was developed by the Slovenian company Arxel Tribe and published by the Wanadoo Edition for Microsoft Windows.
In recent years, some exhibitions have also been organized to tell “Casanova’s world”, as we tried to do todaya and as we mentioned beforehand.
It is well known that Giacomo Casanova is famous above all for his gallant adventures which occupy a prominent place in his memoirs: more than a hundred women are cited as “conquests”.
However, to fully understand the title, we must not forget that these loves were the origin of infinite happiness and misfortune. However, Casanova’s adventurous spirit made him say that
if the pleasures are fleeting, so are the pains.
The 73 years of his existence told by this great libertine are full of adventures, anecdotes and details that have painted, with great skill, the society of the time. We leave you with another quote from Casanova, which does not concern love. It is a reflection on life:
The most important events of our life are independent of our will. We are just thinking atoms that go where the wind pushes them.
And, from the story of his life, we know that his atoms have landed in numerous countries … and in other places!