February 10, 2010
Portrait of Giacomo Casanova by Pietro Longhi.
In the history of the world literature there are many references to variations in the length of fingers. But of all revelations none are more lively than the informative comment in the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova (Jacques Casanova de Seingalt, 1725-1798). Finger professor John T. Manning points points out in ‘The Finger Book’ to an anecdote of Casanova – who has been described as the ‘world’s greatest lover’.
Manning writes on page 2 of his second book ‘The Finger book‘:
“Casanova was an eighteenth-century musician, gambler, soldier, philosopher, writer, librarian, aspiring priest and, of course, womaniser. It is anecdotal but entirely unsurprising that we find from his diaries that he had a ring finger noticably longer than his index finger.”
“Casanova’s adventures took him across Europe, and it is during his stay in Spain that we learn of the relative length of his fingers. At the time Casanova was enjoying the hospitality of the German neoclassical painter Anton Raphael Mengs. Today Mengs’s work is often regarded as cold and contrived, but at the time he was seen by many as Europe’s greatest living painter, and Goya was one of his many students.”
“In the course of his stay Casanova’s relations with his host were less than cordial. Mengs was openly scathing at what he saw as Casanova’s neglect of his religious duties, and he even attempted to evict Casanova from his household after he had failed to take the sacrament at Easter. Casanova meanwhile complained that Mengs was a lascivous, bad-tempered, jealous, avaricous drunkard who beat his children to excess.”
“It is against this background of growing mutual dislike that Casanova recounts a dispute in which he drew Mengs’s attention to the hand of the pricipal figure in one of his paintings, claiming that it was faulty because the ring finger was shorter than the index finger. Mengs assured him this was the correct human condition, showing Casanova his own long index finger and short ring finger. Laughing, Casanova displayed his badge of prenatal masculinity, and asserted that he was sure that his ring finger, unlike Mengs’s, was ‘like that of all children descended from Adam’. A wager of a hundred pistoles was made, and a hurried comparison with the ring fingers of the painter’s servants showed the ‘Casanova pattern’ to be the more common.”
Peters et al. (2002) reported that Casanova made two clear statements: first, that the ring finger is relatively longer than the index finger and, second, that this is the case for both men and women. What follows is a quote from the work of Casanova (The Memoirs of Casanova: Spanish Passions) about one of his conversations with the German neoclassic painter Anton Raphael Mengs.
QUOTE FROM CASANOVA (1794):
… Once I dared to tell him that he had made a mistake in the hand of one of his figures, as the ring finger was shorter than the index. He replied sharply that it was quite right, and shewed me his hand by way of proof. I laughed, and shewed him my hand in return, saying that I was certain that my hand was made like that of all the descendants of Adam.
“Then whom do you think that I am descended from?”
He got up, threw down brushes and palette, and rang up his servants, sayin,-
“We shall see which is right.”
The servant came, and on examination he found that I was right. For once in his life, he laughed and passed it off as a joke, saying-
“I am delighted that I can boast of being unique in one particular, at all events.”
SUGGESTION FOR FURTHER READING: