You can’t find him on Wikipedia. I guess you just have to go to his house.
So I got on an airplane and flew for 11 hours then took a train and a taxi and ended up at the house of Marco Leeflang (*1933), a Casanovist since 1973 and one of the more important Casanovists of the second half of the 20th century. He has some 60 articles about Casanova to his name, which mostly appeared in the Casanova Gleanings and the Intermediaire des casanovistes. His specialty is the time Giacomo lived in Dux, and the documents Casanova left behind. He continued, computerized, and indexed the “fond Casanova” (background of Casanova) which Bernhard Marr (1856-1940) had started. Twice (1982 and 1998) he organized excursions to Dux and Czechoslovakia for Casanovists.
But we also owe a great debt to Marco for his transcriptions. He spent decades, in multiple trips each year, traveling to the castle in Dux (Duchcov)) and the archives in Czechoslovakia (when it was still Czechoslovakia) to sit with the papers Casanova left behind. These had been catalogued by previous archivists, but Marco transcribed volumes and volumes of work. Here’s a picture of him in 1998 sitting in front of the binders of papers he had completed.
Being in Marco’s house is like coming upon a hidden treasure trunk–well, except his house is light and beautiful and full of art. He has a Thai wooden horse he bought at auction and a collection of blue glass bottles. Most fascinating, perhaps, is the collection of his father’s paintings: self-portraits, portraits of Marco’s mother, and numerous paintings of Marco as a boy, in one holding his monkey doll. Marco’s mother worked in marquetry, and a door and a panel display her masterful work.
You may remember that I posted a picture of a sculpture in Hilversham called “The Artist.” Marco had commissioned this as a portrait of Casanova. Here is the model, with Casanova’s name inscribed at the bottom.
Lucky me–I got to see a few samples from his extensive library of Casanoviana. He had every biography you can imagine, but also collections of letters and transcripts of which there are maybe two or three copies in the world. He has donated a number of his papers to the archives at the University of Virginia, and of course the Czech Casanova archives. My flight had been delayed five hours or I would have had more time to peruse the treasures of his library. But he did show me that my book is there among the rest!
But that’s not all. Marco is a master chef! He created a five course meal for us, with a personal menu card printed for the occasion, and we enjoyed the meal while getting to know him and his wife Janna better. Marco served North Sea crab legs (an artichoke for me, the vegetarian), mushroom soup, white asparagus with potatoes and eggs, a cheese course, and a panna cotta with raspberry topping for dessert, attended by coffee and dessert wine. It was the best meal we had on our trip!
I’ve corresponded with Marco for years now, as he had helped me with my research for Seductive Venice, and I got to meet him in Paris in 2012 to see the Casanova memoir manuscript when the French National Library purchased them. He is generous with his knowledge and his papers, often sending me things like copies of the letters of Francesca Buschini or Giustiniana Wynne or an 18th century passport. In coming posts, I’ll describe the 1998 gathering of Casanovists and other interesting tidbits.
I left town way too soon but managed to come back a few days later to have dinner with Marco and Janna again, at a nearby restaurant. Marco filled me with more stories, which I’ll share in the coming month.