April 2 is Casanova’s birthday. Venice acknowledged him in a big way this year with two events, one at the Casino Venier and the other at the new Casanova Museum and Experience.
Casino Venier used to be a casino in the Venetian sense that it was a small set of rooms used for private gatherings, gambling, and assignations. It’s not generally open to the public (I’ve tried to get in a few times but it’s never been open then). On April 2, a number of Casanovists gathered there, including Giuseppe Bignami, who has a collection of casanoviana.
They also displayed the recently-discovered quaderno or notebook written by Casanova when he was six. (I’ll devote more time to this in a separate post.) They had someone dressed in 18th century period costume talking about C’s life, and you can see a portrait of Casanova behind him; this, I assume, is some kind of replica, because the original portrait is larger. From the photos that my friend Adriano sent, it looks like many journalists were in attendance. Here is a video (in Italian) titled “Manoscritto Inedito” featuring Bignami and Luigi Pistori discussing the event and the quaderno, and you can see more of the interior of the casino.
Across town in Cannaregio, Palazzo Pesaro Papafava has opened as the venue for the new Casanova Museum and Experience. While the museum contends to show more sides to Casanova than just the infamous lover, it also includes a room with a rumpled bed and projections of a man (presumably our man C) enjoying time with a lover. But some of Casanova’s writings are included as well–nice to see since C was a varied and fairly prolific writer.
Another room offers a virtual reality tour of riding in a gondola as if you are Casanova partying while touring the city. Lots of other objects ostensibly from the 18th century are displayed around the rooms, including waistcoats, pens, cases, drawings, magnifying glasses, and books. One friend noticed that a violin’s bow had traits of a more modern bow than the 18th century. I don’t know who curated this collection or authenticated the pieces.
Adriano also sent a photo of this document, a letter from Casanova. I know nothing about this yet–who it’s to, where it was written, its date. I’ve been a high school teacher for many years and pride myself on being able to read nearly any handwriting, but some of these words confound me. I’ll let you know if I get more details on this piece.
The director Andrea Cosentino gave my friends a personal tour of the rooms since Adriano’s wife is a journalist. They said that everyone there was very enthusiastic, friendly, and sincere. Adriano has shared these photos with me, so I can share them with you.
The story has been picked up by many news services. This article offers a slideshow where you can see the bed scene (though the article has a significant error, stating that Casanova was born in 1795, when in fact he was born in 1725). I’ll be interested to visit the site myself. My hope for a Casanova museum would be to see more documents in his hand and objects he owned, as well as other items from his era and hometown. Of course, that requires lots of cash and good curation. Perhaps this location will become a magnet for more artifacts in the future.