On the occasion of Venice Carnival 2015, Atelier Marega invites you to the Casanova Grand Ball, which will take place during the San Valentine Evening and promises to be the event-you-do-not-to-loose during the Carnival period in Venice.

Casanova Grand Ball

Casanova Grand Ball in Venice during San Valentine Night 2015

We named the 2015 edition of the Grand Ball after Casanova. So let’s go to see who he was and why he is still so famous not just in venice, but around the world. “Casanova”, like “Don Juan“, is a long established term in the Italian and English languages.

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova  (2 April 1725 – 4 June 1798) was an Italian adventurer and author. His autobiography, titled Story of My Life, is still considered as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century

Casanova

Casanova

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was born in Venice in 1725 to actress Zanetta Farussi, wife of actor and dancer Gaetano Giuseppe Casanova.

At the time of Casanova’s birth, the city of Venice thrived as the pleasure capital of Europe, ruled by political and religious conservatives who tolerated social vices and encouraged tourism. The famed Carnival of Venice, gambling houses, and beautiful courtesans were powerful drawing cards. This was the milieu that bred Casanova and made him its most famous and representative citizen.

Abbé Gozzi, his primary instructor, tutored him in academic subjects as well as the violin. Casanova moved in with the priest and his family and lived with them in Venice through most of his teenage years. It was also in the Gozzi household that Casanova first came into contact with the opposite sex, when Gozzi’s younger sister Bettina fondled him at the age of eleven. Bettina was “pretty, lighthearted, and a great reader of romances. … The girl pleased me at once, though I had no idea why. It was she who little by little kindled in my heart the first sparks of a feeling which later became my ruling passion.”[1] Although she subsequently married, Casanova maintained a lifelong attachment to Bettina and the Gozzi family.

Early on, Casanova demonstrated a quick wit, an intense appetite for knowledge, and a perpetually inquisitive mind. He entered the University of Padua at twelve and graduated at seventeen, in 1742, with a degree in law (“for which I felt an unconquerable aversion”).

While attending the university, Casanova began to gamble and quickly got into debt, causing his recall to Venice by his grandmother, but the gambling habit became firmly established.

Back in Venice, Casanova started his clerical law career and was admitted as an abbé after being conferred minor orders by the Patriarch of Venice. He shuttled back and forth to Padua to continue his university studies. By now, he had become something of a dandy—tall and dark, his long hair powdered, scented, and elaborately curled.[He quickly ingratiated himself with a patron (something he was to do all his life), 76-year-old Venetian senator Alvise Gasparo Malipiero, the owner of Palazzo Malipiero, close to Casanova’s home in Venice. Malipiero moved in the best circles and taught young Casanova a great deal about good food and wine, and how to behave in society. When Casanova was caught dallying with Malipiero’s intended object of seduction, actress Teresa Imer, however, the senator drove both of them from his house. Casanova’s growing curiosity about women led to his first complete sexual experience, with two sisters Nanetta and Maria Savorgnan, then fourteen and sixteen, who were distant relatives of the Grimanis. Casanova proclaimed that his life avocation was firmly established by this encounter.

Scandals tainted Casanova’s short church career. In search of a new profession, Casanova bought a commission to become a military officer for the Republic of Venice. At the age of 21, he set out to become a professional gambler, but losing all the money remaining from the sale of his commission, he turned to his old benefactor Alvise Grimani for a job. Casanova thus began his third career, as a violinist in the San Samuele theater.

San Samuele Theater in Venice

Teatro San Samuele – Venice

Good fortune came to the rescue when Casanova, unhappy with his lot as a musician, saved the life of a Venetian nobleman of the Bragadin family, who had a stroke while riding with Casanova in a gondola after a wedding ball.  The senator and his two bachelor friends thought Casanova wise beyond his years, and concluded that he must be in possession of occult knowledge. As they were cabalists themselves, the senator invited Casanova into his household and he became a lifelong patron.

For the next three years under the senator’s patronage, working nominally as a legal assistant, Casanova led the life of a nobleman, dressing magnificently and, as was natural to him, spending most of his time gambling and engaging in amorous pursuits. His patron was exceedingly tolerant, but he warned Casanova that some day he would pay the price. As it happened. Not much later, Casanova was forced to leave Venice, due to further scandals

Escaping to Parma, Casanova entered into a three-month affair with a Frenchwoman he named “Henriette“, perhaps the deepest love he ever experienced—a woman who combined beauty, intelligence, and culture. In his words:

“They who believe that a woman is incapable of making a man equally happy all the twenty-four hours of the day have never known an Henriette.”

Later on, he moved to Paris for two years. Due to frequent scandals he was the protagonist of, Casanova spent the rest of his life traveling in Europe from a city to the other.

Born of actors, he had a passion for the theater and for an improvised, theatrical life. But with all his talents, he frequently succumbed to the quest for pleasure and sex, often avoiding sustained work and established plans, and got himself into trouble when prudent action would have served him better. His true occupation was living largely on his quick wits, steely nerves, luck, social charm, and the money given to him in gratitude and by trickery.

Prince Charles de Ligne, who understood Casanova well, and who knew most of the prominent individuals of the age, thought Casanova the most interesting man he had ever met: “there is nothing in the world of which he is not capable.”

As was not uncommon at the time, Casanova, depending on circumstances, used more or less fictitious names such as baron or count of Farussi (the name of his mother) or Chevalier de Seingalt (pronounced Saint-Galle, as in French). That’s why he often signed his works as Jacques Casanova de Seingalt after he began writing in French following his second exile from Venice.

He has become so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that his name is now synonymous with “womanizer”. He associated with European royalty, popes and cardinals, along with luminaries such as Voltaire, Goethe and Mozart. He spent his last years in Bohemia as a librarian in Count Waldstein‘s household, where he also wrote the story of his life.

THE FILM

Casanova di Federico Fellini

Casanova pictured in a Federico Fellini film

Casanova is also the title of a 2005 American romantic film directed by Lasse Hallström starring Heath Ledger and loosely based on the life of Giacomo Casanova. Despite being set in Venice, some scenes were filmed in Vicenza, particularly the Teatro Olimpico, the Renaissance theater known for its intricate forced perspective stage design. Still, most of the scenes have been settled in Venice during a period of 10 months.