Dating a libertine isn’t what it used to be – not in the #MeToo era. At the Greenwich Decorative Arts Society’s superb lecture on “Casanova’s Europe: Art, Pleasure and Power in the 18thCentury,” based on the exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, we couldn’t help but ask lecturer Thomas S. Michie – the Russell B. and Andréa Beauchamp Stearns senior curator of decorative arts and sculpture there – if all these paintings of sexually ambivalent woman being coaxed or even coerced into sex reflected something in women or, rather, the fact that they were all painted by men. It’s a provocative question that Michie said the museum had to be careful to consider, particular in preparing the label copy.
Indeed, we can’t read history backward. The peripatetic Giacomo Casanova – playboy and memoirist – was a man of his times, as were the women he knew. But we see that history through our own lens, which casts a more skeptical eye on images of women who seemed to be enjoying the seduction.
All we can say is that after Mitchie’s entertaining presentation of a most thought-provoking subject, we wish we could attend the exhibit, which, alas, only runs through Monday, Oct. 8. One of its great strengths appears to be its vivid costume tableaux of high-stakes card games, assignations and other Casanovian intrigues.
Meanwhile, the Greenwich DAS is a most congenial group – WAG’s What’s Collectible? columnist Jenny Pitman is a regular – that meets the first Monday of every month around Greenwich. (The Casanova talk, held Monday, Oct. 1, was set against the hypnotic backdrop of the Riverside Yacht Club.)
Next up is furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale on Nov. 5 and Art Deco jewelry on Dec. 3. (There is no lecture in January.)
– Georgette Gouveia