Casanova: The Seduction of Europe

Exhibition Overview

Thalia, Muse of Comedy
Jean-Marc Nattier, Thalia, Muse of Comedy, 1739. Oil on canvas, 53 1⁄2 × 49 in. (135.9 × 124.5 cm)

Audiences are invited to journey into the world of eighteenth-century Europe with one of its most colorful characters, Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), as guide. Casanova was considered by his own contemporaries to be a witty conversationalist, autobiographer, gambler, spy, and one of the greatest travelers of all time. More than 80 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, period furnishings, delicate porcelains, and lavish period costumes, re-create this luxurious and sparkling world of masked balls, palaces, theaters, and operas.

To achieve the effect of eighteenth-century opulence, the exhibition stages several tableaux enlivened by mannequins dressed in period costume and surrounded by paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. Paintings of Venetian masquerades and idealized gods and goddesses cavorting amid swirling clouds are paired with delicate and playful porcelains from the royal Polish Meissen factory and from as far as China; gilt candelabra and silvered mirrors; and lavish furniture made from silk-embroidered velvet, worked leather, marble, alabaster, and gold. Visitors are immersed in a visual world of Rococo finery, examining artworks not only as individual pieces but also as combined and cumulative expressions of wealth and prestige.

‘For more information on public programs related to this exhibition, please visit the Legion of Honor's website.

(Photo: Jean-Marc Nattier, Thalia, Muse of Comedy, 1739. Oil on canvas, 53 1⁄2 × 49 in. (135.9 × 124.5 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection, 1954.59 Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

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