In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Palazzo Decarolis

Palazzo Decarolis, also known as De Carolis, became the Roman home to Joachim de Bernis. Casanova had first met him when he was the ambassador from France, but when he was promoted to the position of Cardinal, he set up house in the grand Palazzo Decarolis on Via del Corso 307. He served at the church of San Silvestro, which I describe in a different post.

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Google Maps satellite view of the location

Casanova doesn’t specify where he went to spend this time together. In John Masters’ 1969 biography Casanova, on page 247 he writes, “The Cardinal lived in the palace which is now the Banca di Roma.”  According to historian Roberto Piperno, de Bernis lived in the Palazzo Decarolis and brought his guests there. Adriano Contini in Rome sent this image of a plaque on the Banco di Roma, which is housed in the Palazzo Decarolis, that confirms it was the site of the French Ambassador.

Image thanks to Adriano Contini

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Contemporary view of the Palazzo Decarolis, from romeartlover.it

As I mentioned in another post, Casanova had become friends with the Prince of Santa Croce, who commented that “I have never heard His Eminence speak of anyone with as much regard as he does of you.”

“The Cardinal received me the next day with every sign of the unfeigned pleasure it gave him to see me again,” wrote Casanova. “He praised me for my reticence in speaking of him to the Prince of Santa Croce at the Duchess’s, being sure that I would say nothing about the circumstances of our friendship in Venice. I told him that, except for having grown stouter, I found him as handsome and fresh-looking as when he had left Paris twelve years earlier, but he replied that he felt different in every way.”

“I am fifty-five years old,” Bernis replied, “and I am reduced to a vegetable diet.”

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Bernis promised to approach Erizzo, the Venetian Ambassador, to secure a warm reception for Casanova when he called at the Palazzo Venezia. Casanova writes, “I told him I had plenty of money, and I saw that he was delighted to know it, and even more pleased when I told him I was all alone and determined to be on my good behavior and to live without ostentation.” They also reminisced about their times in Venice. “He said that he would write M.M. of my presence in Rome,” writes Casanova, recalling the nun who had been de Bernis’ mistress and who later became Casanova’s.

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Portrait of Cardinal de Bernis (Wikimedia)

Rather than taking a mistress, the Cardinal de Bernis now attended the Princess of Santa Croce as her cavalier servente, a companion and escort accepted by her husband the Prince. Casanova explains, “The Cardinal saw her only on the three regular visits he paid her every day: when she rose in the morning and he went to see if she had slept well; every afternoon, when he went to drink coffee with her in her apartment; and every evening at the assembly in her palace.” In other words, he didn’t spend the night with her. Casanova was then invited to visit the Princess at other times, which he took advantage of, finding her to be an amusing companion.

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1753 etching by Vasi showing the Palazzo Decarolis

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Cassone (again)

Back in the pre-pandemic days when we took students on fields trips, I went with the French classes to San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum. What a treat of a day! We just wandered through the museum, which has an excellent permanent collection of Rodin and Monet and many other great things.

Previously I’ve posted photos of Venetian cassoni, the chests that usually held a trousseau or a woman’s linens or clothing that she took with her to her new husband’s home. The museum had an excellent specimen, so I’m sharing it with you here.

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Detail of the carving at the corner

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Who knows if this cassone was ever in Venice, but they were common to the city.

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Redefining Beauty: Morosina Morosini Grimani

In 1597 Morosina Morosini Grimani hosted a coronation party unusual for its time. Her husband Marino Grimani had been chosen as Doge of Venice two years earlier and had had his own inauguration festival. But the unusual thing was her immense event, which included regattas, barges for dancing, processionals and more, amidst three days of celebration. In this portrait, she doesn’t look like a party animal, but she certainly knew how to throw one in her own honor!

When women were usually expected to stay in their homes or churches, Morosina instead put on a more public face. In this video I give you a summary of her accomplishments and contributions, from her fashion design to her philanthropy to her ability to put a female face amidst the male city leaders.

Last week I ran a workshop for high school students titled “Redefining Beauty,” and when one of the students viewed this video, she remarked, “Morosina found ways to make the festival for everyone, so it wasn’t just about herself.” I love that a 15-year-old in 2021 can appreciate the contributions of a woman from over 400 years ago.

Andrea Vicentino’s painting of Morosina’s inauguration
No, I’m not standing in the water, though it looks like it! Thank you to the kind stranger who filmed me that day.
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Venetian Emoji #7

This Venetian emoji (aka: a doorbell) reminded me of the old Woody Allen movie Sleeper. Check out these images and see if you spot the similarities, too!

(Robot image from bu.edu, and Woody Allen image from idrawonmywall.com.)

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Announcing: Storia Editoriale di una Vita

This has been a great year for new books on Giacomo Casanova! Storia Editoriale di una Vita: Bibliografia delle edizioni dell’Histoire de ma vie di Giacomo Casanova. 1822-2019, chronicles the publishing history of Casanova’s History of My Life. Gianluca Simeoni has studied 1,400 different editions of Casanova’s memoirs, in multiple languages, and chronicled this history about where and when each was published, who made such decisions, and why. With complete indices, it’s a treasure for researchers and others passionate about Casanova’s life who want to study the vicissitudes of Casanova’s memoirs.

You can hear a conversation between the author Gianluca Simeoni with Gino Ruozzi and Antonio Trampus, professor at Ca’ Foscari in Venice and editor of Casanoviana, the journal of Casanova studies. It will be moderated by Luca Al Sabbagh, this Saturday, 17 July, at 17:00 (Italian time).

Here is the press release with more information about the book:

Giacomo Casanova, nato a Venezia il 2 aprile 1725, nonostante sia stato uno

scrittore vivace e prolifico, incarna nell’immaginario collettivo la figura

dell’avventuriero per antonomasia.

E avventurosa appare, senz’altro, anche la vicenda editoriale del suo più

grande successo letterario. Accanto alla grande tradizione editoriale, avviatasi a Lipsia nel 1822,

l’Histoire de ma vie vede svolgersi parallelamente un’altra storia, estremamente

avvincente, fatta di estratti, stampe parziali, episodi singoli, edizioni

a fascicoli.Ripercorrerne la storia editoriale significa restituire uno spettacolo affascinante,

fatto di protagonisti ma anche di comprimari e di comparse, di

grandi successi ma anche di edizioni passate sotto silenzio.

Gianluca Simeoni, studioso casanoviano e membro del board della rivista

«Casanoviana», orchestra lo spettacolo restituendoci una geografia editoriale

complessa e avvincente, dove ogni scheda diventa uno stimolo ad approfondire

veri e propri intrighi librari e collezionistici.

L’autore reperta circa 1400 edizioni, prendendo in esame le opere a stampa

che in parte o integralmente riproducono il testo e che sono state stampate

in qualsiasi lingua, dialetti compresi, e in qualsiasi parte del mondo. Il lavoro

è arricchito da un generoso apparato di indici, che ne fanno uno strumento

davvero prezioso non solo per gli addetti ai lavori, ma anche per bibliofili

e appassionati.

Gianluca Simeoni, Storia editoriale di una vita. Bibliografia

delle edizioni dell’Histoire de ma vie di Giacomo Casanova.

1822-2019, C.R.E.S., Edizioni e strumenti, 17, Oltrepagina

edizioni, Verona 2021

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In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–An Inn on Via del Corso

Casanova sojourned in Rome on three different occasions: in the 1740s, 1760-61, and 1770-71. I’ve mostly told you the tales of his first stay in Rome, and now I will pivot to his return in 1760. We know of these adventures from Volume 11 of his memoirs. At the beginning of Chapter 8, Casanova writes that times have changed for him, that at age 45, “I still loved the fair sex, though with much less ardor, much more experience, and less courage for daring enterprises, for, looking more like a father than a lover, I believed I no longer had rights or justifiable claims.”

As Casanova headed into Rome, he was asked to escort a young British woman named Betty, who was exhausted from riding a horse alongside her putative husband and now wished to ride by carriage. Casanova was delighted to accompany her, as she was “perfectly charming, very nicely dressed in the English style, blonde, rather thin, with small breasts which a gauze gorget allowed me to glimpse, a childish timidity which expressed itself in fear of discommoding me, a noble, delicate countenance, and a modesty of manner which was almost virginal,” he reported.

As they travel, her manners, and her husband’s initial poor treatment of her, awakened C’s sympathy, as he started to fall for her. He also learned that Betty attended school in London with C’s daughter Sophie (though he doesn’t admit to Betty that he is her father). It soon became clear, and Betty finally admitted it, that her “husband” was a seducer who had stolen her from another man. Casanova agreed to assist her, and eventually they were reunited with Sir B.M., who almost shot Casanova, thinking he was the one who stole Betty away from him.

All these peregrinations eventually bring this trio to Rome, where Casanova had his trunk taken to an inn across from the church of San Carlo in Corso (full name Sant’Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso) on Via del Corso (I blogged about this church previously–See September 25, 2019.)

Here are the buildings across from the church, but I have not done the research to find exactly where the inn was in 1760–one of the downsides to being forced to stay at home during a pandemic, with no access to libraries, either! Roland, who had opened the Hotel Londra, opened another hotel in 1770 called the Ville de Paris situated on the Piazzetta Caetani near the Corso; this information gleaned from Trask’s notes (Vol. 11, Ch. IX, note 3). Would this place on Via del Corso be that same Ville de Paris? And what is the address? If anyone can help me find this, I would appreciate it!

So this was a very long introduction to mention an inn of which we know next to nothing except its location. As Casanova, Sir B.M. and Betty entered Rome, they were routinely searched. Casanova tells us, “After a polite search of my trunk by two clerks, the postilion took us to an inn opposite the Church of San Carlo, where, after having my trunk taken to a separate room, I begged Sir B.M. to remain calm, assuring him that I would attend to the whole matter in the course of the morning and that we should dine together well satisfied.”

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In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Hotel Londra

The current building where the Hotel Londra used to stand.

Etching bey Vasi, showing the Piazza di Spagna. The second building past the Spanish Steps is the one in question.

Charles (Carlo) Roland (d. 1785) makes his appearance in Casanova’s memoirs a few times as the owner of various inns that Casanova stayed in or visited. Originally from Avignon, he came to Rome and opened the Hotel Londra on the Piazza di Spagna. In 1766 Roland gifted this inn to his son-in-law, Francois Lafont, who had married Roland’s daughter Anne Marie. The inn is also known by other names, such as Ville de Londres, Albergo Inglese, and Hotel Lafont. It maintained a lofty reputation into the 19th century as an expensive and well-appointed lodging that saw its share of happy clients.

In Vol. 11, Casanova also explains that “Roland was the father of Teresa, whom I had loved nine years earlier and whom my brother Giovanni married in 1762, a year after I left,” though Trask notes that Casanova made a small error in his dates: his brother Francesco married in 1762, and Giovanni married Teresa in 1764. I’ll provide a few of these stories below.

Carlo Roland’s first address in Rome was at Via delle Carrozze 95, though there is no record that Casanova stayed there. Roland later opened another hotel in 1770 called the Ville de Paris situated on the Piazzetta Caetani near the Corso. (See a separate post on the Ville de Paris or City of Paris.) In 1760, in Vol. 7, Ch. VIII of History of My Life, Casanova states that “I am in the Piazza di Spagna and in front of the ‘City of Paris’; such was the name of the inn which had been recommended to me” (p. 179). However, editor Trask explains that C made an error here; Roland didn’t open the City of Paris until 1770, so C must have stayed at the Hotel Londra, which was indeed on the Piazza di Spagna.

I have to quote a rather long section here, as it encapsulates Casanova’s interactions with so many women; in this case, it was his introduction to Roland’s daughter Teresa. C had arrived late at night to the Hotel Londra, after everyone was abed. “I hear a girl in bed,” he begins, “covered up so that I see only her head, telling me to sit on her bed, in which another girl was asleep. I see a smiling mouth and two eyes which look like carbuncles. I praise them and ask her to let me kiss them. She answers only by putting her head under the coverlet; but I slip my hand beneath it and halfway down her figure and, finding her stark naked, I withdraw it, asking her to forgive me if I have been too inquisitive. I think I see that she is grateful for my kindness in restraining my curiosity.”

May I just pause and ask “grateful for his kindness?” He was being quite impertinent and maybe deserved a slap! But Teresa was young and naive–she admits to him she is not yet seventeen–and when he says he will be happy to meet her in his rooms the next day, she declines, saying she will not visit his room if there are not other ladies present.

“Charming Teresa, your eyes scorch my soul,” he responds.

“She puts her head under the coverlet again,” he continues, “I seize the opportunity once more to advance my hand, she curls up, I take her by surprise, and I am sure that the angel is female.” Though Casanova asks Teresa’s pardon at this point, he’s surely not really sorry. He even remarks that Teresa showed “just a trace of anger but at the same time of consent” (Vol. 7, Ch. 8, p. 179-180). I’ll let you draw your own conclusions regarding this exchange, as it’s not my place to moralize. When Casanova met Teresa in the daylight the next day, he determined that he was not hopelessly in love, that “her only striking feature was her eyes,” and his “enthusiasm diminished.” C’s brother Giovanni, however, was smitten and married Teresa a year later. (Casanova used the word “trapped.”)

Later in 1770 Casanova spent some time in Naples with his former lover Donna Lucrezia and their daughter Leonilda. He returned to Rome and notes that “though it was the middle of September it had not yet rained and the air was still noxious.” Settling himself in the city, he writes, “I went to lodge at the inn on the Piazza di Spagna kept by Roland’s daughter, the sister of Teresa, the wife of my brother [Giovanni], who was still in Rome with Prince Beloselski.”

My early research indicated that the hotel was at #18 or #20. But the truth is a little more complicated. The original building is gone, replaced by the one shown above. So technically, Casanova didn’t visit this actual building, but its predecessor. This postcard (below) shows the original building and lists its address as #17.

A postcard used as an advertisement for the hotel.

(Research from Willard Trask, editor of Casanova’s History of My Life, John Hopkins University Press, 1971, Vol. 7, Ch. 8 as well as Vol. 11, Ch. 9 plus the notes for each. Thanks to Adriano Contini for finding the antique photo of the hotel that shows its original location.)

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Casanova’s Last Love?

Well, technically that’s probably not true. But this film, Casanova, Last Love, capitalizes on C’s encounter with La Charpillon, the woman who spurned him and played on his emotions to the point that he considered throwing himself into the Thames.

The film came out in 2019 but has not been available in the US or in English. It’ll be premiering in New York and Los Angeles. No, I won’t be flying to one of those cities to see it! But I hope it doesn’t take too long to come to my part of California. And I hope I’ll feel safe enough to enter a movie theater!

Click here to see an article with more details and the movie trailers in English and French. And when you see it, please leave a comment here to let me know what you thought of it!

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What Did Casanova Know About the Pox?

You can find out the answer to this and many other questions in Lisetta Lovett’s new book Casanova’s Guide to Medicine.

Lovett notes that Casanova’s interest in medicine and cataloguing of his and others’ illnesses offer a fairly broad glimpse into eighteenth century afflictions, beliefs, and treatments. Giacomo Casanova’s History of My Life presents a vast social history of the era’s European practices, from carriages and gondolas to gloves and slippers, convents to inns to prisons. Lovett quotes liberally from the memoirs, particularly the English translations by Machen and Trask. Casanova feels very present in this chronicle as his words set the scene for the exploration of an ailment or cure. Employing the detective skills of a medical historian, Lovett also devotes Chapter 13 to an overview of medical beliefs from the ancient Greeks through the 1700s, as well as end notes providing explanations of specific diseases, all to help the lay reader better understand the complaints and cures behind Casanova’s stories. Casanova’s Guide to Medicine can be read as either a companion or an introduction to the History of My Life.

This detective work results in a comprehensive look at various illnesses and treatments, from commonplace forms of indigestion and fever, to mysterious maladies like the vapors and nervous disorders, which became fashionable among the leisure classes. Lovett spends considerable time explicating venereal diseases, while she also discusses instances of eighteenth century sexual taboos such as masturbation, homosexuality, incest, and pedophilia, presenting an objective analysis of social context while avoiding moral judgments. Twenty-first century readers can benefit from this fuller context and deepened understanding. Besides just physical ailments, Lovett also addresses addictions to alcohol and gambling as well as mental disorders such as melancholy and suicide through Casanova’s own experiences or his comments about others. Social context is key in Lovett’s text: she provides clear, pertinent, and succinct overviews of the era’s prevailing practices and beliefs, even such events as dueling as it related to injuries Casanova incurred.

Lovett depicts Casanova with a clear-eyed vision of this complex historical character. While she admires his protective care for women, for example, she also notes his bouts of anger or melancholy and his savvy use of the cabbala when it benefitted him. Casanova’s Guide to Medicine offers an informative and enjoyable view into both the eighteenth century as well as the life of one of its great writers and adventurers. History students, Casanova admirers, medical professionals, or anyone with a curiosity about such complaints as the pox, Green sickness, apoplexy, and the Bolognese Itch will spend diverting hours with this book.

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Where Spritz Goes to Rest

Spotted in Rome, 2018

Or is this where I go to rest?

By the way, where are the drinks?

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