Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725 - 1798) MP

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Birthplace: Venice, Republic of Venice
Death: Died in Holy Roman Empire, Kingdom of Bohemia
Managed by: Malka Mysels
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About Giacomo Girolamo Casanova

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt (April 2, 1725 – June 4, 1798) Although best known for his prowess in seduction for more than two hundred years since his death, Casanova was also recognized by his contemporaries as an extraordinary person, a man of far-ranging intellect and curiosity.

Casanova was one of the foremost chroniclers of his age. He was a true adventurer, traveling across Europe from end to end in search of fortune, seeking out the most prominent people of his time to help his cause. He was a servant of the establishment and equally decadent as his times, but also a participant in secret societies and a seeker of answers beyond the conventional.

Casanova's autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life), is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century

He was so famous as a womanizer that his name remains synonymous with the art of seduction. He associated with European royalty, popes and cardinals, along with luminaries such as Voltaire, Goethe and Mozart.

He spent his last years in Bohemia as a librarian in Count Waldstein's household, where he also wrote the story of his life.

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was born in Venice in 1725 to actress, opera singer and composer Zanetta Farussi, wife of actor and dancer Gaetano Giuseppe Casanova. Giacomo was the first of six children, being followed by Francesco Giuseppe (1727–1803), Giovanni Battista (1730–1795), Faustina Maddalena (1731–1736), Maria Maddalena Antonia Stella (1732–1800), and Gaetano Alvise (1734–1783).[1][2]

Casanova was cared for by his grandmother Marzia Baldissera while his mother toured about Europe in the theater. His father died when he was eight

Early on, Casanova demonstrated a quick wit, an intense appetite for knowledge, and a perpetually inquisitive mind. He entered the University of Padua at twelve and graduated at seventeen, in 1742, with a degree in law (“for which I felt an unconquerable aversion”)

It was his guardian’s hope that he would become an ecclesiastical lawyer. Casanova had also studied moral philosophy, chemistry, and mathematics, and was keenly interested in medicine. (“I should have been allowed to do as I wished and become a physician, in which profession quackery is even more effective than it is in legal practice.

Back in Venice, Casanova started his clerical law career and was admitted as an abbé after being conferred minor orders by the Patriarch of Venice. He shuttled back and forth to Padua to continue his university studies. By now, he had become something of a dandy—tall and dark, his long hair powdered, scented, and elaborately curled. He quickly ingratiated himself with a patron (something he was to do all his life), 76-year-old Venetian senator Alvise Gasparo Malipiero, the owner of Palazzo Malipiero, close to Casanova’s home in Venice. Malipiero moved in the best circles and taught young Casanova a great deal about good food and wine, and how to behave in society. When Casanova was caught dallying with Malipiero’s intended object of seduction, actress Teresa Imer, however, the senator drove both of them from his house

Scandals tainted Casanova’s short church career. After his grandmother’s death, Casanova entered a seminary for a short while, but soon his indebtedness landed him in prison for the first time. An attempt by his mother to secure him a position with bishop Bernardo de Bernardis was rejected by Casanova after a very brief trial of conditions in the bishop's Calabrian see. Instead, he found employment as a scribe with the powerful Cardinal Acquaviva in Rome.

On meeting the pope, Casanova boldly asked for a dispensation to read the “forbidden books” and from eating fish (which he claimed inflamed his eyes). He also composed love letters for another cardinal. But when Casanova became the scapegoat for a scandal involving a local pair of star-crossed lovers, Cardinal Acquaviva dismissed Casanova, thanking him for his sacrifice, but effectively ending his church career.

In search of a new profession, Casanova bought a commission to become a military officer for the Republic of Venice

Due to scandals, he fled to Parma, where Casanova entered into a three-month affair with a Frenchwoman he named “Henriette”, perhaps the deepest love he ever experienced—a woman who combined beauty, intelligence, and culture. In his words, “They who believe that a woman is incapable of making a man equally happy all the twenty-four hours of the day have never known an Henriette.

Perhaps no woman so captivated Casanova as Henriette; few women obtained so deep an understanding of him. She penetrated his outward shell early in their relationship, resisting the temptation to unite her destiny with his. She came to discern his volatile nature, his lack of social background, and the precariousness of his finances. Before leaving, she slipped into his pocket five hundred louis, mark of her evaluation of him.

In 1750 along the way, from one town to another Casanova got into sexual escapades resembling operatic plots. In Lyon, he entered the society of Freemasonry, which appealed to his interest in secret rites and which, for the most part, attracted men of intellect and influence who proved useful in his life, providing valuable contacts and uncensored knowledge. Casanova was also attracted to Rosicrucianism.

In 1760, Casanova started styling himself the Chevalier de Seingalt, a name he would increasingly use for the rest of his life. On occasion, he would also call himself Count de Farussi (using his mother's maiden name) and when Pope Clement XIII presented Casanova with the Papal Order of the Éperon d'Òr, he had an impressive cross and ribbon to display on his chest.[55]

In 1779, Casanova found Francesca, an uneducated seamstress, who became his live-in lover and housekeeper, and who loved him devotedly.

Casanova arrived in Paris, and in November 1783 met Benjamin Franklin while attending a presentation on aeronautics and the future of balloon transport. For a while, Casanova served as secretary and pamphleteer to Sebastian Foscarini, Venetian ambassador in Vienna.

He also became acquainted with Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, who noted about Casanova, “This singular man never liked to be in the wrong.” Notes by Casanova indicate that he may have made suggestions to Da Ponte concerning the libretto for Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

For Casanova, as well as his contemporary sybarites of the upper class, love and sex tended to be casual and not endowed with the seriousness characteristic of the Romanticism of the 19th century.

Flirtations, bedroom games, and short-term liaisons were common among nobles who married for social connections rather than love. For Casanova, it was an open field of sexual opportunities. Although multi-faceted and complex, Casanova's personality was dominated by his sensual urges: “Cultivating whatever gave pleasure to my senses was always the chief business of my life; I never found any occupation more important. Feeling that I was born for the sex opposite of mine, I have always loved it and done all that I could to make myself loved by it.” He noted that he sometimes used "assurance caps" to prevent impregnating his mistresses.

Casanova valued intelligence in a woman: “After all, a beautiful woman without a mind of her own leaves her lover with no resource after he had physically enjoyed her charms.”

He was religious, a devout Catholic, and believed in prayer: “Despair kills; prayer dissipates it; and after praying man trusts and acts.” Along with prayer he also believed in free will and reason, but clearly did not subscribe to the notion that pleasure-seeking would keep him from heaven.

He was, by vocation and avocation, a lawyer, clergyman, military officer, violinist, con man, pimp, gourmand, dancer, businessman, diplomat, spy, politician, medic, mathematician, social philosopher, cabalist, playwright, and writer. He wrote over twenty works, including plays and essays, and many letters. His novel Icosameron is an early work of science fiction.

Born of actors, he had a passion for the theater and for an improvised, theatrical life. But with all his talents, he frequently succumbed to the quest for pleasure and sex, often avoiding sustained work and established plans, and got himself into trouble when prudent action would have served him better. His true occupation was living largely on his quick wits, steely nerves, luck, social charm, and the money given to him in gratitude and by trickery.

Prince Charles de Ligne, who understood Casanova well, and who knew most of the prominent individuals of the age, thought Casanova the most interesting man he had ever met: “there is nothing in the world of which he is not capable.” Rounding out the portrait, the Prince also stated: The only things about which he knows nothing are those which he believes himself to be expert: the rules of the dance, the French language, good taste, the way of the world, savoir vivre.

“Casanova”, like “Don Juan”, is a long established term in the English language. According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., the noun Casanova means “Lover; esp: a man who is a promiscuous and unscrupulous lover”. The first usage of the term in written English was around 1852. References in culture to Casanova are numerous—in books, films, theater, and music.

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Giacomo Casanova's Timeline

1725
April 2, 1725
Republic of Venice
1798
June 4, 1798
Age 73
Holy Roman Empire, Kingdom of Bohemia