‘Casanova, Art, and Eroticism’

“In all its splendor and misery, love dominates the life of Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798). As the hero of the memoirs he started writing in 1789, when he was sixty-four and living in exile in Bohemia, Casanova performs as ardent lover, callous libertine, amiable friend, and suitor wronged. His amorous adventures begin at the tender age of eleven, and by story’s end he has experienced every feeling associated with love from intense longing to painful despair. Affairs numbering well over one hundred enliven the History of My Life. Their frequency and diversity set Casanova apart from contemporaries, yet his experiences exemplify concepts and practices current during his life, and he draws on a well of shared convention in representing them. Artists who were Casanova’s contemporaries—many of whom figure in the exhibition Casanova. The Seduction of Europe—also drew on these concepts and practices in works that explored the amorous and erotic life of the eighteenth century.  The pictorial genres most associated with amatory subjects range from myth, allegory and pastoral to so-called boudoir scenes and voyeuristic vignettes. Though often highly charged with eroticism, the “adult” content of such images tended to be lyrical, allusive or playful, leaving more to the imagination than Casanova’s exuberantly explicit accounts of his venereal exploits.”

Originally written for the 2017 catalogue to the exhibition ‘Casanova: the Seduction of Europe’, but not included, this article by the late art historian Mary Sheriff gives a great insight into the context of Casanova’s libertinism through reference to eighteenth-century works of art – here.


‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.

 Long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.


#casanova #europe #eighteenthcentury #art #libertine #libertinism