On Sunday, the Kimbell Art Museum opened a resplendent exhibition exploring mid-18th century Europe within its Louis I. Kahn building. Casanova: The Seduction of Europe summons the people, places, paintings and decorative arts that the deceitful polymath Giacoma Casanova (1725–1798) undoubtedly encountered as he traversed the continent.

Francois Boucher (French, 1703–1770) Companions of Diana, 1745
Oil on canvas
46 1/8 x 36 1/8 in. (117.2 x 91.8 cm)
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Collection, 75.2.3

Particularly known as the notorious eighteenth-century womanizer with over 100 conquests under his belt, as detailed in his memoirs, Casanova led a peripatetic life. From his birthplace in Venice where he was, at one time, incarcerated and escaped, to Louis XV-ruled France, through King George III’s England, the Ottoman Empire, and St. Petersburg where he met the Empress of Russia Catherine the Great, Casanova utilized his manifold talents as a lawyer, cheat, librettist, and poet, along with his theatrical upbringing to beguile and enjoy hedonistic pursuits. The exhibition does a great service in bringing viewers to this pivotal period in European history described by Director Eric M. Lee as similar to our own. “The 18th century’s cult of celebrity, of shifting identity, its use of gossip as currency and its obsession with travel and novelty are all cultural forces that confront us today.”

With Casanova serving as the protagonist, the exhibition surveys 18th century masterworks by Boucher, Canaletto, Tiepolo, Fragonard, Boucher’s marvellous panels exploring mythological themes, and others, alongside decorative objects, sculpture, furniture, exquisite silver and porcelain, and intermittent tableaux featuring period costume. Some 200 works are arranged in four parts: The Theater of Identity, which conveys Casanova’s love of fantasy, The Art of Luxury, Amorous Pursuits (a racy exploration of erotic themes), and The Adventure of Travel exploring geography and defining moments. From masked balls to boudoirs, the seducer’s illustrious life is on display offering insight into elements of Casanova’s world as detailed in his biography, History of My Life (Histoire de Ma Vie) up to 1174.

Following its display in Fort Worth through December 31, 2017, the exhibition will be on view at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco / Legion of Honor and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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