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Casanova's Europe: Art, Pleasure, and Power in the 18th Century

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 465 Huntington Avenue Boston, MA, 02115 United States (map)

Giacomo Casanova (1725–98) was esteemed by his contemporaries as a charming conversationalist, expert on many topics, and an international man of letters. He traveled widely throughout the continent, with extended sojourns in his native Venice, Paris, London, and much of Eastern Europe, mingling with royalty, popes, and luminaries such as Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin along the way.

This exhibition combines more than 250 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, decorative arts objects, period costumes, and musical instruments drawn from European and American museums and private collections to illustrate the splendor of eighteenth-century Europe. Structured by the chronology and geography of Casanova’s life, the exhibition addresses such themes as travel, courtship and seduction, theatre and identity, and the pleasures of dining. The visual riches Casanova would have encountered are evoked by masterpieces by Canaletto (1697–1768), François Boucher (1703–70), Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828), William Hogarth (1697–1764), and others. Three tableaux—set in Venice, Paris, and London—employ period furniture and mannequins in eighteenth-century costumes to vividly convey scenarios from Casanova’s world.

Casanova is co-organized by the MFA, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications.