Based on the Danish novel Ehrengard, written by Karen Blixen, Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction, a Netflix original film brings to screen a sweet and serene period drama that is indeed going make your heart swoon with love. The narrative follows an exuberant royal painter named Wolfgang Cazotte, who is attracted to a military man’s daughter, Ehrengard. He is determined to seduce Ehrengard through his cunning tactics, but in his journey to win her over, he has to take part in a compromise with the Grand Duchess of Babenhausen. Let’s explore the character arc of Cazotte to know if he manages to achieve his desired goal.
Who was Cazotte?
Cazotte had a unique vision and an intriguing taste in art. Like most of the artists, nature was his muse, but he found women’s bodies to be his only fascination and inspiration to make art. His notebook was filled with sketches of women’s naked bodies. Cazotte was famous in the court of the Grand Duchess as her painter. However, his duties went beyond being a painter, as he gradually became her loyal and closest friend. Even Cazotte’s outward charm and exuberance caught the attention of the Grand Duchess, who initially intended to be involved in intimacy with him.
Nonetheless, Cazotte wasn’t interested in the proposal, as he was afraid of getting beheaded by the Duke. Initially, Cazotte maintained his distance from her, but their friendship flourished over time. The Grand Duchess recognized that Cazotte was the only reliable friend she had in her court. Cazotte wasn’t judgmental at all; rather, he had solutions to every possible problem. When it came to teaching the art of seduction to Prince Lother, son of the Grand Duchess, Cazotte came up with unique tactics. He first gained the prince’s trust by befriending him, and then he set his goal to set the prince up with the princess of Leuchestine, Ludmilla. This is how the Grand Duchess not only arranged her son’s marriage but also ensured that Lother would be the most eligible candidate for the throne after the Duke’s passing.
However, amidst all of this, Cazotte felt enchanted by a woman he saw in the palace of the Grand Duchess. Her name was Ehrengard, the daughter of a military man who was the most trusted friend of the Duke. Ehrengard was beautiful and didn’t pay much attention to Cazotte’s flamboyance, making him even more intrigued by her beauty as well as her personality. Cazotte desperately wanted to play the game of seduction with her, but despite all his efforts, it wasn’t easy for him to get her attention. Consequently, he used the excuse of painting a portrait of Ehrengard and asked the Grand Duchess’ help in convincing her. But even though the Grand Duchess made a request to Ehrengard’s father herself, the military man got enraged and refused to let his daughter be anybody’s muse. The Grand Duchess didn’t mention Cazotte’s name to the military man; otherwise, it would have been hard for Cazotte to escape his wrath. Unfortunately for Cazotte, he had to wait for another opportunity to arrive, and subsequently, he plotted a cunning scheme to be around Ehrengard.
Ludmilla had conceived Lother’s child before their marriage. This meant that after their wedding, Ludmilla was expected to give birth to their firstborn in only four months. This was a matter of great shame for the Duchess and her family. She had strategically arranged her son’s marriage to prevent her husband’s cousin Marlod from asserting the claim to the throne, but if the news of a premarital pregnancy came out, Marlod would demand the throne back, dismissing the child’s legitimacy.
Cazotte, a visionary artist, foresaw that a premarital pregnancy wasn’t a matter of shame but rather would be an appreciated practice in the next 150 years. But in that particular moment, the Duchess needed his help to get out of this situation. Cazotte advised her to announce Ludmilla’s pregnancy and portray her as severely ill. This way, Ludmilla would relocate to another castle in Rosenbud, where she would remain concealed for nine months, away from watchful eyes. Cazotte came up with another idea. He told the Grand Duchess that Ludmilla would need a lady in waiting during this time, and Ehrengard would be an excellent choice. Not only to pacify Cazotte’s hunger for seduction but also to safeguard her own reputation, the Grand Duchess agreed to Cazotte’s proposal and recruited Ehrengard as a lady in waiting for Ludmilla. However, before the Grand Duchess approached Ehrengard, she made a deal with Cazotte. According to the agreement, if Cazotte failed to impress Ehrengard, he would have to fall in love with the Grand Duchess instead, and he wouldn’t be able to reject her.
Was Cazotte able to seduce Ehrengard?
Ehrengard was unhappy with the decision because, to serve Ludmilla, she had to leave her fiance Kurt and move to the castle of Rosenbud against her will. She realized Cazotte had selected her because he was simply attracted to her. Though Cazotte had never made an inappropriate advances at her, Ehrengard saw through his efforts to seduce her in many ways, such as by bringing her favorite horse, Wohtan, back to her. Despite his efforts, Ehrengard maintained her distance from him. But Cazotte crossed all the boundaries by going so far as to draw her naked when she took a bath in the forest lake at dawn. Cazotte, being an absolute jerk, didn’t bother to ask for her consent. His behavior suggested that he had learned the art of seduction in a patriarchal way, as he saw the women as mere subjects of his painting but not as human beings. Thus, Ehrengard’s consent seemed insignificant to Cazotte before he painted her portrait.
However, Ehrengard was a clever woman. As she had reservations about Cazotte’s intentions, she eavesdropped on his conversation with the Grand Duchess, during which Cazotte spoke to her about Ehrengard’s beauty and how he was plotting to ensnare her in his trap of seduction. Realizing Cazotte’s perversion, she managed to find the painting that Cazotte had made and hid in his room. However, Ehrengard’s maturity and decision-making ability proved to be stronger than Cazotte’s.
When the Duke’s cousin Marlod came to know that Ludmilla had already welcomed a baby and that the Grand Duchess had hired a wet nurse for babysitting, he confronted the Grand Duchess. She arranged a picnic and dressed Ludmilla like a pregnant lady, who appeared to be six months along. However, the wet nurse’s husband, who was desperate to have his wife back, made a deal with Marlod and sneaked inside the castle of Rosenbud to steal the baby during the picnic. But Ehrengard stepped in to save the honor of the Grand Duchess by claiming that it was her child. This caused a commotion as Ehrengard’s fiance, Kurt, arrived right at that moment and found out that Cazotte and Ehrengard had had an intimate relationship, resulting in childbirth. Enraged by the revelation, Kurt wanted to confront Cazotte and take him out, but Ehrengard intervened to stop the violence, probably revealing to her fiancé that it was all a ruse to save Ludmilla from further embarrassment.
In the concluding moment of Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction, we see Cazotte had no other option left but to make love to the Grand Duchess, according to their prior agreement. But after that, Cazotte went traveling the world and formed several connections along the way. As beautiful women started gravitating around him, he gained popularity as a “Casanova.” Cazotte was an extremely talented artist with a unique vision. He portrayed his freedom of expression through his artistry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was a good person too. He had perversion hidden under his facade as a patron of beauty. However, he was friendly and charming which helped him form a lot of connections along his way. He was a bit cocky, and unable to handle rejection properly due to his narcissistic behavior. That’s what fueled his burning desire to impress Ehrengard desperately. He was ambitious while simultaneously being a great schemer. Despite being a skilled artist, his character was morally ambiguous due to his questionable practice of painting women without their consent. However, even though he portrayed himself as a man of stature, in the end, he showed his vulnerability when Ehrengard won his heart with her cleverness. She strategically saved the honor of the Grand Duchess, giving Cazotte a temporary illusion of intimacy between them, although in reality, it never actually happened.