When Casanova returned to Rome in 1760, he found his brother Giovanni living there and studying under the painter Rafael Mengs. Giovanni took him to visit old friends from his first trip to Rome, and introduced him to new people as well. “My brother then took me to call on Signora Cherufini, and this time I enter a house of the highest fashion,” Casanova wrote. “He introduces me, the lady receives me in the Roman manner, I find her charming and her daughters even more so; but their swains of every description are too numerous, there is a glitter which annoys me, and the young ladies, one of whom was as pretty as a Cupid, seem too polite to everyone. I am asked an interesting question, I reply in a manner which should inspire a second, and I am not asked it. I do not care. I see that in this house I should lose something of my intrinsic value, and that the reason for it was the rank of the person who had brought me there.”
Clearly this visit, though at such a fashionable and noble house, was not sitting well with Casanova; he didn’t feel he was being accorded the respect he deserved.
He continued, “I hear an abate saying to another who is looking at me: ‘He is Casanova’s brother.’ I tell him he should have said it was Casanova who was my brother, and he replies that it makes no difference. An abate says that it does make a difference, we talk, and we become good friends. It was the celebrated Abate Winckelmann, who twelve years later was murdered in Trieste” (Vol. 7, Ch. 8, p. 181).
So the visit was not a waste, considering that Casanova met Johann Winkelmann, known for his important work on ancient art, including the book The History of Art in Antiquity. Winkelmann, born in Germany, came to Rome and, though some claimed he was pagan, he joined the Catholic Church. He gained access to papal libraries, which aided his research. Winkelmann was friends with Raphael Mengs, and there is an infamous tale of a fresco painted by either Mengs or Giovanni Casanova, meant to deceive Winkelmann, that caused a lot of grief for all three of them, particularly Giovanni. But our man Giacomo enjoyed Winkelmann’s company and also remarks on his murder in Trieste in 1768.
Casanova was also introduced to Cardinal Albani, who, upon learning that Casanova was the man who had famously escaped the Leads in Venice, Casanova added, “he is amazed that I have the effrontery to come to Rome, where at the least request from the Venetian State Inquisitors an ordine santissimo would oblige me to leave” (182). Casanova felt insulted and jibed back at the Cardinal, leaving soon after this exchange. “I never again set foot in the Casa Cherufini,” he declared.
Countess Francesca Cherufini (née Gherardi) (1709 – 1778) hosted a literary salon, “among the most brilliant literary and social functions in Rome,” Willard Trask tells us (Vol. 7, Ch. 8, note 43). These soirees also included musical entertainments. Though she was married to Count Ranuccio Cherufini (or Cheruffini, depending on the source), at this time the Countess was the mistress of Cardinal Alessandro Albani. The daughters that Casanova mentions were Vittoria and Maddalena Cherufini; according to Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, these two daughters were fathered by Albani (not the Countess’ husband) and Albani was also their godfather.
The Countess lived at Piazza Pilotta 3, currently home to the Pontificia Università Gregoriana, which hosts a Gregorian choir as well. Trask writes that her home was known as the Palazzo Frascara (or Palazzo Ciogni Frascara); “Frascara” is engraved above the doors.
Below: from Art in Rome in the 18th century, p. 92, a few more details about the Countess.
(Research from Casanova’s History of My Life, edited by Willard Trask, Vol. 7, Ch. 8. Images from Google Maps and support provided by Adriano Contini. Additional research from Art in Rome in the 18th Century.)