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  • An Immortal in Venice March 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Here is a nice immortal story from late seventeenth century Italy. It appears in a very curious book entitled: Johann Heinrich Cohausen, Hermippus redivivus, or, The sage’s triumph over old age and the grave. If you want to be immortal you should probably give it a read. In any case, Beach introduces Signor Gualdi.

    There happened in the Year 1687, an odd Accident at Venice, that made very much stir then, and which I think deserves to be secured from Oblivion. The great Freedom and ease with which all Persons, who make a good Appearance, live in that City, is known sufficiently to all who are acquainted with it; they will not therefore be surprized, that a Stranger, who went by the Name of Signor Gualdi, and who made a considerable Figure there, was admitted into the best Company, though no body knew who, or what he was. He remained at Venice some Months, and three Things were remarked in his Conduct. The first was, that he had a small Collection of fine Pictures, which he readily shewed to any Body that desired it; the next, that he was perfectly versed in all Arts and Sciences, and spoke on all Subjects with such Readiness and Sagacity, as astonished all who heard him; and it was in the third Place observed, that he never wrote or received any Letters; never desired any Credit, or made use of Bills of Exchange, but paid for every Thing in ready Money, and lived decently, though not in Splendor. This Gentleman met one Day at the Coffee-House with a Venetian Nobleman, who was an extraordinary good judge of Pictures: He had heard of Signor Gualdi’s Collection, and in a very polite Manner desired to see them, to which the other very readily consented. After the Venetian had viewed Signor Gualdi’s Collection, and expressed his Satisfaction, by telling him, that he had never seen a finer, considering the Number of Pieces of which it consisted…

    At this point though the Venetian caught a glimpse of a portrait over the Chamber ‘where a hung a Picture of this stranger’. This is a delightful tale: it would make a great short story.

    The Venetian look’d upon it, and then upon him. This Picture was drawn for you, Sir, says he to Signor Gualdi, to which the other made no Answer, but by a low bow. You look, continued the Venetian, like a Man of Fifty, and yet I know this Picture to be of the Hand of Titian who has been dead one hundred and thirty Years, how is this possible? ‘It is not easy’, said Signor Gualdi, gravely, ‘to know all Things that are possible; but there is certainly no Crime in my being like a Picture drawn by Titian’. The Venetian easily perceived by his manner of speaking, that he had given the Stranger Offence, and therefore took his leave. He could not forbear speaking of this in the Evening to some of his Friends, who resolved to satisfy themselves by looking upon the Picture the next Day. In order to have an Opportunity of doing so, they went to the Coffee-House about the Time that Signor Gualdi was wont to come thither, and not meeting with him; one of them who had often conversed with him, went to his Lodgings to enquire after him, where he heard, that he set out an Hour before for Vienna. [and then disappeared?] This Affair made a great Noise, and found a Place in all the News-Papers of that Time.

    Anything else on Signor Gualdi: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    R. Labanti writes, 29 Aug 2017. The legend of Gualdi can be found in Philosophia hermetica / Federico Gualdi;  and Opus Philosophicum by the same author edited by Alessandro Boella and Antonella Galli (Roma : Edizioni Mediterranee, 2008). I haven’t seen these save on Google Books but there is a summary on Wikipedia.it On Gallica it is possible to find the relevant numbers of Mercure galant (Comiers is in Mercure galant for November 1687). The work by Claude Comiers (obit 1693) is this (1688). The Italian translation should instead be Casizzi (1690).