Art e Dossier


Art History

Francesco Hayez: biography

Francesco Hayez was born into a poor Venetian family in 1791 and soon was sent to live with his uncle, Giovanni Binasco, a Genoese patron and lover of the arts. In that environment Francesco became acquainted with painting and began studying with Francesco Magiotti and Teodoro Matteini. After he won a competition in 1809 to study in Rome he moved to the capital, having been entrusted to Antonio Canova by Leopoldo Cicognara (the president of the Venetian academy). Thanks to the protection of the influential sculptor, in 1812 Hayez won the painting competition of the Accademia di Brera on the theme of Laocoön, and began to make a name for himself in Roman artistic milieus, especially among the classicists and purists as his early important works would show. These include the Rinaldo and Armida (1813) that he sent to the Accademia di Venezia as his final project after three years in Rome, and Ulysses at the Court of Alcinous (1814-1816) that had been commissioned by Joachim Murat and sent to Napoleon’s court. With the Triumphant Athlete (1816) Hayez won the competition of the Accademia di San Luca, defeating the purist Ingres. In 1817 he returned to Venice and also worked in Padua and Milan where he was warmly received into the local cultural milieus. In Milan he “inherited” the neoclassical culture of Appiani and Bossi and created an academic manner of great skill and noble pathos. His large painting of 1820, Pietro Rossi Prisoner of the Della Scala that met with great success at the exhibition of the Accademia di Brera would become the manifesto of historical romanticism. All his great paintings form this period, such as Sicilian Vespers, (1821-1822), Peter the Hermit Preaching the Crusade (1829) and The Refugees of Parga (1813) were dedicated to historical themes which, in reality, alluded to facts and aspirations of the Risorgimento in a sentimental and passionate dimension. Following his own rigorous formal ideals Hayez also dealt with some amorous or pathetic-religious subjects that were significant of the tastes of a certain frivolous yet influential group of patrons: The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet (1823), The Penitent Magdalene (1832), Lot and His Daughters (1833) and Bathsheba at her Bath (1834) were paintings that created scandals because of their explicitly sensual allusions. Thanks to the good relationships he had nurtured with the Austrian government, in 1837 he painted the large fresco for the royal palace depicting the Allegory of the Political Order of Ferdinand I. A friend of figures such as Manzoni, Rosmini and Rossini, Hayez has left us a large number of their portraits – and of the great Lombard families. These portraits are characterized by balance and aristocratic decorum that keep the subject’s psychology and emotions under control In 1850 he began teaching at the Accademia dI Brera and in 1852 exhibited the Meditation at Verona, a moving commemoration of the Five Days – Cinque Giornate. In 1859 Hayez presented The Kiss at the exhibition held at Brera for the entrance of Vittorio Emanuele and Napoleon III. This is perhaps his most famous and popular painting; a second version was sent to the 1867 exposition in Paris. Disappointment with the Risorgimento led him to gradually abandon historical and commemorative painting. His last two monumental works date from 1867, Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and Marin Faliero. They were shown at Brera as his artistic legacy destined for the academies of Venice and Milan where they are still conserved today. His last masterpiece, Vase of Flowers in the Window of a Harem, dates from the year before his death which occurred in Milan on 21 December 1882.

The works