I’m a busy kid in Venice! I visited the Palazzo Zaguri exhibit, “Venice Secrets.” It’s huge–many floors filled with torture devices and their grisly descriptions. Chairs where they set people on fire, beds like grills, pokey things and spiky things. Many of the examples come from other cities besides Venice, but there are also a number of stories and examples from the Venetian archives. I’ll report on those more later.
But today I want to focus on the items related to Casanova.
The exhibit begins at the top floor, after you climb lots and lots of stairs. There they’ve created a replica of Casanova’s prison cell from the Leads–a little odd, considering that the real cell is on display about 10 minutes’ walk away at the Palazzo Ducale. I visited that one some years ago, so I don’t remember how accurate this replica is in comparison. But it does have a bed covered with straw and an armchair and footrest. Casanova famously hid a metal rod that he used to pick his way out of his cell in this chair, so that was a nice detail.
They also had a mannikin wearing clothes supposedly like Casanova’s when he escaped from prison, even with dirt and wear marks on them, as you can see here. I was sorry to see that they didn’t include the hat with a feather in it, which C described in his memoirs.
Most interesting were the two documents in C’s hand–notes for his memoirs. Originals (though it didn’t mention how they were authenticated), This is quite exciting to me, as most of C’s original papers are either in Czechoslovakia, where he lived at the end of his life, or in Paris because the National library bought the memoirs. Also displayed were copies of Manuzzi’s accusations against C after spying on him; the real documents are in the state archives.
Copies of spy reports
There was also information about C’s friendship with Pietro Zaguri, one of the past owners of the palazzo. C went there a number of times and also encountered Lorenzo DaPonte, who is described in one of the rooms. After doing so much research on these folks, it’s so interesting to inhabit the spaces they inhabited.
I’ll post separately about the other goodies housed in this museum. I’m sad to report that they did not have my books on display, even though I write about Casanova in one book, and in the other about Veronica Franco and Giustina Rossi, who are both part of the exhibit. I must rectify this situation….