Gualdi, Signor

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Gualdi, Signor

A Rosicrucian who, according to the book Hermippus Redivivus; or The Sage's Triumph over Old Age and the Grave (1744), by J. H. Cohausen, lived for several hundred years.

Gualdi lived in Venice for several months and was called "the Sober Signor" among the common people because of the regularity of his life, the composed simplicity of his manners, and his simple dress. He always wore dark clothes of a plain, unpretentious style.

Gualdi had a small collection of fine pictures, which he readily showed to anyone who was interested. He was versed in all arts and sciences and spoke with astonishing detail. It was observed that he never sent or received mail. He never desired any credit, paid for everything in ready money, and made no use of bankers, currency, or letters of credit. He always seemed to have enough, and he lived respectably, although with no attempt at splendor or show.

Shortly after his arrival in Venice, Gualdi metat a coffee-house he frequenteda Venetian nobleman who was fond of art. This pair had many conversations concerning various objects and pursuits of mutual interest. They became friends and the nobleman, who was a widower, invited Gualdi to his home, where he first met the nobleman's daughter, a beautiful maiden of 18, intelligent and accomplished. Constantly in his company and fascinated by his narratives, the young lady gradually fell in love with the mysterious stranger.

Gualdi was a well-educated gentleman, a thinker rather than a man of action. At times his countenance seemed to glow during conversation, and a strange aura surrounded him when he became more than usually pleased and animated. Altogether he seemed a puzzling person of rare gifts.

The Venetian nobleman was now sufficiently intimate with Gualdi to say to him one evening that he understood that he had a fine collection of pictures, and that if agreeable, he would pay him a visit one day to see them. The nobleman's daughter, looking down at the table and thinking deeply of something Gualdi had just said, raised her eyes eagerly at her father's proposal and showed her desire to go with him to see the pictures.

Gualdi was very polite and readily invited the nobleman to his house. He also extended the invitation to his daughter.

On the day agreed upon, the father and daughter went to Gualdi's home. They were received warmly and Gualdi showed them his rooms graciously. The nobleman viewed Gualdi's pictures with great attention and remarked that he had never seen a finer collection, considering the number of pictures.

They were about to leave Gualdi's own chamber, the last of his set of rooms, when the nobleman by chance noticed over the door a picture evidently of Gualdi himself. The Venetian looked at it suspiciously, but after a while his face cleared, as if with relief. The daughter's gaze was also riveted upon the picture, which was very like Gualdi, but she regarded it with a blush. The Venetian looked from the picture to Gualdi, and back again from Gualdi to the picture. It was some time before he spoke.

"That picture was intended for you, sir," he said at last, hesitatingly, to Gualdi. A slight cold change passed over the latter's eyes, but he only replied by a low bow. "You look a moderately young manto be candid with you, sir, I should say about forty-five, or thereaboutsand yet I know, by certain means of which I will not now further speak, that this picture is by the hand of Titian who has been dead nearly a couple of hundred years. How is this possible?" he added, with a polite, grave smile.

"It is not easy," replied Gualdi quietly, "to know all things that are possible, for very frequent mistakes are made concerning such, but there is certainly nothing strange in my being like a picture painted by Titian."

The nobleman easily perceived by his manner and his countenance that Gualdi felt offense. The temporary misunderstanding was soon put to an end by Gualdi himself, however, who in a moment or two resumed his ordinary manner and saw the father and daughter downstairs to the entrance of his house with his usual composed politeness. The nobleman, however, could not help feeling uneasy; his daughter experienced a considerable amount of discomfort and could not look at Gualdi for a while. When she did look, she looked too much.

This little occurrence remained in the mind of the nobleman. His daughter felt lonely and dissatisfied afterward, eager for the restoration of friendly feelings with Gualdi. The Venetian went in the evening to the usual coffeehouse and spoke of the incident among the group of people collected there. Their curiosity was roused, and one or two resolved to satisfy themselves by looking at the picture attentively. In order to do so it was necessary to see Gualdi somewhere and be invited to his home. The only likely place to meet him was at the coffeehouse, and the gentlemen went there the next day at the usual time, hoping that Gauldi would stop in as was his habit.

But he did not comenor had he been heard from since the nobleman's visit to his house the day before. Since they did not meet with him at the coffeehouse, one of their number went to his lodgings to inquire after him. The owner of the house came to the street door and stated that Gauldi had gone, having left Venice early that morning, and that he had locked up his pictures with certain orders and taken the key to his rooms with him.

This affair caused much gossip at the time in Venice, and an account of it found its way into most of the newspapers of the year in which it occurred. Gualdi's story is also found in Les Mémoires historiques for the year 1687.

Hermippus Redivivus, which includes other strange anecdotes of triumph over old age, is not a reliable source and may in fact be a satirical work.