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three pairs of lovers with space



The following was recounted by the Venetian adventurer Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725-98) in a section of his memoir translated by Willard R. Trask as History of My Life, Volumes VII and VIII (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969), pp. 160-170.


Casanova, History of My Life, Volume VII, Chapter VIII

In January 1761, Casanova spent three weeks in Florence, where he met Teresa, the pretended castrato he had loved in 1744 and, for the first time, the son she had borne him. At her home, he met “a young ballerina from Bologna named Corticelli.”He invited all three of them to dine with him the next day:

The first to arrive was La Corticelli, together with her mother, who went by the name of “Signora Laura,”[1] and her brother, a violinist who looked like a girl. Her mother told me that she never let her daughter dine alone with strangers. I replied that in that case she had only to go home or leave her there and accept two scudi to dine with her son wherever she pleased. She took the two scudi and departed, saying she felt sure she was leaving her in good hands.

Her daughter made such amusing comments on this dialogue between her mother and myself, laughing so heartily, that it was on that very day that I began to love her. She was thirteen years of age, and looked only ten; she was well built, extremely fair, gay, with a sense of humor; but I do not know how or with what in her I could have fallen in love.

Feuerbach Anselm. Ricordo di Tivoli. ca. 1866
Memory of Tivoli by Anselm Feuerbach

Casanova did not see La Corticelli the next day, but then:

The next day, having a great deal of writing to do, I did not go out, and toward evening I saw La Corticelli before me with her mother and her brother. […] Needing to finish my letters and to refrain from eating, I told Costa to serve them supper.

After finishing my correspondence, feeling in the mood for amusement, I have the little madcap sit beside me and I flirt with her in a fashion to which Signora Laura could make no objection; but I am a little surprised when the youth comes to join in.

“You are not a girl,” I say.

Thus apostrophized, the rascal shows me that he is a boy, but in such a scandalous way that his sister, who was sitting on my lap, gives a great burst of laughter and throws herself into her mother’s arms at the other and of the room, where, after eating a good supper, she had respectfully retired. When he sees his sister gone, the little scoundrel treats me to a gesture which annoys me, and I give him a light box on the ear. I rise and I ask Signora Laura for what purpose she has brought me this catamite. The only answer she gives me is:

Isn’t he a very pretty boy?

I told her to leave, giving the Giton[2] a scudo to make up to him for the box on the ear. He took it, kissing my hand.

I went to bed laughing over the incident, for, such as nature made me, the wristband game[3] could never have been anything but the consequence of an intoxication produced by a great friendship.

Two days later, after supper, Casanova decided to visit La Corticelli’s room:

I was almost certain I should find the Bolognese girl accommodating and Signora Laura unable to resist money.

My lackey shows me the way to her room.

“That will do. Go and wait for me in the carriage.”

I knock, I knock again, the family wakes:

“Who is there?”

I give my name, the door is opened, I enter in darkness, and I hear Signora Laura say she is going to light a candle, and that if I had let her know she would have waited up for me despite its being so cold; and in fact I felt as if I were in an icehouse. I hear La Corticelli laughing, I grope for her bed, I find it, I put in my hand, and I touch the too obvious tokens of the male sex. I guess it is her brother, and I see him by the light of the candle her mother has lighted. I see his sister lying in the same bed laughing, with the covers drawn up to her chin because, like her brother, she was stark naked. Despite my freedom from prejudice on the subject, such infamous behavior disgusts me.

Casanova Giacomo attrib. Francesco Narici ca. 1760
Giacomo Casanova, attributed to Francesco Narici, ca. 1760

“Why,” I ask Signora Laura, “do you not keep your son in bed with you?”

“What harm can I fear? They are brother and sister.”

“It is not good.”

The catamite makes off and gets into his mother’s bed and La Corticelli says in her Bolognese dialect, which immediately sets me laughing, that it was neither good nor bad, since she loved her brother only as a brother and he loved her only as a sister. She ended by saying that if I wanted her to sleep alone I had only to buy her a bed, which she would take with her when she went back to Bologna.

Talking and gesticulating, she unwittingly let me see a third of her nudity, and I saw nothing worth seeing, nevertheless it was ordained that I should fall in love with her skin, for it was all she had. If she had been alone I would have gone further with her; but, her mother and her brother being there, I feared scenes which might anger me. I gave her ten zecchini to buy herself a bed, and I left her. 


[1] Laura Corticelli, née Citti (also Cilli or Cigli), married to Antonio Corticelli [Translator’s note 10].

[2] Giton was a wanton and alluring boy in Petronius’s famous 1st century AD novella, the Satyricon, and the prototype of boys who made themselves available to men.  [Website footnote]

[3] [French] text, le manège de la manchette = pederasty [Translator’s note 19]