Although his name has become synonymous with womanizer or scoundrel, Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798) was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the most magnetic personalities of the day and an international man of letters. He traveled widely throughout the continent, mingling with royalty, popes, and intellectuals such as Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin along the way. As author of one of the most detailed and wittiest autobiographies known to survive, Casanova offers a glimpse into daily life 250 years ago.
The exhibition combines more than 275 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, decorative arts, furniture, costumes, and musical instruments in a lavish display of the visual riches of Casanova’s world. Structured by the chronology and geography of his life, the exhibition addresses such themes as travel, the intersection of courtship and power, theatricality and identity, and the pleasures of fine dining and lively conversation. Among the masterpieces on view are a series of monumental paintings by François Boucher, reunited here for the first time in decades, and Tiepolo’s The Charlatan (1756), shown above. Three tableaux—taking place in Venice, Paris, and London at different times of day—feature mannequins in authentic costumes amid period settings, bringing Casanova’s world to life.