Last year when I visited the Casanovist (and my friend) Marco Leeflang, he showed me the many artworks in his home, most of them by his father. But on the mantel in one room sat this drawing by Giovanni Casanova, Giacomo’s younger brother. Yes, their other brother Francesco was also a painter, best known for large battle scenes, but Giovanni had also made a name for himself. I was stunned to be in the presence of artwork by a Casanova; though I had seen some of Francesco’s works in museums, it’s different when it’s a small sketch sitting on your friend’s mantel!
In doing some research on Giovanni, I found inconsistent facts, so here I’ll share the dates and details from Marco Leeflang, who I know to be a meticulous researcher. Giovanni was born on November 4, 1730, in Venice and died December 8, 1795 in Dresden. At the very young age of eight, living in Dresden with his mother who was working as an actress, Giovanni was already studying painting under Sylvester and Dietrich. When he returned to Venice, he studied with Piazzetta, though perhaps the best known of his teachers was Raphael Mengs, whom he worked with in Rome from 1752 to 1763. Giovanni Casanova also knew other famous painters of the age, namely Angelica Kaufmann and Johann Winkelmann. Even the painter Fragonard mentions his work. Giovanni worked in paints, pencil, and crayon as well as printmaking.
Giovanni Casanova became a professor and later a director at the Dresden Academy of Painting. He also authored a book titled Discorso sopra gl’Antichi e varj monumenti loro per uso dgl’alunni dell’elettoral Accademia delle Bell’Arti di Dresda (Leipsic, 1770). Records document his works sold at auctions.
He married Teresa Roland–a surname you might recognize if you’ve been reading my blog posts about Rome, as she was the daughter of the same Roland who ran the inn on Piazza di Spagna where Casanova stayed. Giovanni and Teresa had (at least) eight children. But despite his successes, when he died, he was nearly penniless, though his renown led to a large funeral procession with over 20 carriages.
Marco told me he has sold this drawing since my visit of spring of 2018. I wonder if the new owner will come across it here on my blog? Wouldn’t that be odd?