The World of Casanova
·Casanova's swindling of one of wealthiest women in eighteenth-century France.
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‘Casanova in Paris’ has aimed to work with and around the historical facts of the time but we decided to go for quite a dramatic re-imagining of the Marquise d’Urfé. We have depicted her as a savvy entrepreneur selling gay sex to aristocratic women who have ended up in loveless marriages. We suggest that the bizarre figure that has come down to us through the historical record was fabricated by the Marquise and Casanova as a cover to hide her lucrative business venture.
Jeanne Marquise d’Urfé (1705 to 1775). She was 29-years-old when her husband died. She was highly educated and had the freedom and money to do and have whatever she wanted, an exceptionally unusual position for a woman in eighteenth-century France. The only hitch was that what she wanted was eternal youth.
'Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers' - the great symbol of the Age of Enlightenment. During the eighteenth century old certainties and superstitions jostled alongside new radical insights and attitudes to create an intoxicating brew. Who knew what was out there waiting to be revealed?
Rape of the Lock - Supernatural Machinery
For untold generations stretching back to the ancient Greeks and beyond it was understood that numinous forces were sewn into the fabric of existence and played themselves out in the here and now whether through the agency of God or gods. Very few questioned otherwise.
Palmistry - Chiromancy
Palmistry, or chiromancy, a practice which can be traced back thousands of years and to many parts of the world. Although the Marquise was the object of cynical exploitation and preposterous quackery, nonetheless there would have been those who genuinely believed in the prospects of unearthing miraculous powers.
Are destroyers unsinkable?
Just as today many otherwise perfectly sane people hold beliefs stretching from homeopathy to alien abduction or from Scientology to parallel universes which many other equally sane people deride so in the early eighteenth century there would have been a continuum of belief from the convinced to the cynical.
Comte de Saint-Germain. Described by Casanova, in a classic pot-kettle-black moment, as 'the king of imposters', Saint-Germain was an extraordinary, multi-talented, adventurer who was employed by Louis XV at one point as a spy as part of his Secret du Roi. He claimed, amongst other things, to be 300 years old and could melt diamonds. He was a linguist, philosopher, chemist, occultist and accomplished musician.
Duchesse de Chartres (1726–1759), depicted as the goddess Hebe by Nattier (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Even before his second visit to Paris, Casanova had something of a reputation for his skills as a cabbalistic healer. In 1750, he had successfully treated the Duchesse de Chartre for acne. Of course, when he arrived in Paris in 1757, the first man to have escaped from the prison of the Venetian Inquisition, he was an even more interesting proposition.
The draw (found in R D Kruckeberg doctoral thesis ‘The Wheel of Fortune in Eighteenth-Century France’). Casanova’s part in founding the Paris lottery made him a fortune. It was soon depleted, however, by his lavish spending and so increasingly he looked to d’Urfé to supplement his income.
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For several years Casanova swindled the Marquise. He would do this not by asking for cash directly but by asking her to furnish him with the materials, such as precious jewels, that he needed to carry out his experiments to help him to connect with the astral powers.