Exhibition | Casanova: The Seduction of Europe

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 1, 2017

From the Kimbell Art Museum and Distributed Art Publishers (DAP) . . .

Casanova: The Seduction of Europe / Casanova’s Europe: Art, Pleasure, and Power
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 27 August — 31 December 2017
The Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 10 February — 28 May 2018
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1 July — 8 October 2018

Jean-Marc Nattier, Portrait of Manon Balletti, 1757, oil on canvas, 54 × 47.5 cm (London: National Gallery). Balletti was the fiancée (1757–60) of Giacomo Casanova and then wife (1760–74) of the architect Jacques-François Blondel.

Casanova: The Seduction of Europe explores the 18th century across Europe through the eyes of one of its most colorful characters, Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798). Renowned in modern times for his amorous pursuits, Casanova lived not only in Italy, but in France and England, and his travels took him to the Ottoman Empire and to meet Catherine the Great in Saint Petersburg. Bringing together paintings, sculpture, works on paper, furnishings, porcelains, silver, and period costume, Casanova will bring this world to life. Following its display in Fort Worth, the exhibition will be on view at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Frederick Ilchman, Thomas Michie, C.D. Dickerson III, and Esther Bell, with texts by Meredith Chilton, Jeffrey Collins, Nina Dubin, Courtney Leigh Harris, James Johnson, Pamela Parmal, Malina Stefanovska, Susan Wager, and Michael Yonan, Casanova: The Seduction of Europe (Boston: MFA Publications, 2017), 344 pages, ISBN: 978 087846 8423, $45.

In 18th-century Europe, while the old order reveled in the luxurious excesses of the Rococo style and the Enlightenment sowed the seeds of revolution, the shapeshifting libertine Giacomo Casanova seduced his way across the continent. Although notorious for the scores of amorous conquests he recorded in his remarkably frank memoirs, Casanova was just as practiced at charming his way into the most elite social circles, through an inimitable mix of literary ambition, improvisational genius and outright fraud. In his travels across Europe and through every level of society from the theatrical demimonde to royal courts, he was also seduced by the visual splendors he encountered.

This volume accompanies the first major art exhibition outside Europe to lavishly recreate Casanova’s visual world, from his birthplace of Venice, city of masquerades, to the cultural capitals of Paris and London and the outposts of Eastern Europe. Summoning up the people he met and the cityscapes, highways, salons, theaters, masked balls, boudoirs, gambling halls and dining rooms he frequented, it provides a survey of important works of 18th-century European art by masters such as Canaletto, Fragonard, Boucher, Houdon, and Hogarth, along with exquisite decorative arts objects. Twelve essays by prominent scholars illuminate multiple facets of Casanova’s world as reflected in the arts of his time, providing a fascinating grand tour of Europe conducted by a quintessential figure of the 18th century as well as a splendid visual display of the spirit of the age.

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Note (added 20 August 2018) — This article might be of interest for anyone thinking about the exhibition and its reception within our own political/cultural context: Cynthia Durcanin, “Casanova as Case Study: How Should Art Museums Present Problematic Aspects of the Past?,” ArtNews (13 August 2018). As noted in the essay: “The MFA also changed the show’s title from the Legion of Honor’s, removing the word ‘seduction’ so that it became ‘Casanova’s Europe: Art, Pleasure and Power in the 18th Century’.” According to Katie Getchell, the chief brand officer and deputy director of the MFA Boston, “It’s an important nuance. The show is not about Casanova—it’s about Europe in Casanova’s time.”









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