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Francesco Hayez, oltre il bacio

Francesco Hayez, beyond the kiss


For those who have attended the Brera Academy “Il bacio” by Hayez is a daily appointment. Every morning the kiss bronze statue version (by the sculptor Francesco Barzaghi) is there waiting for you in the “piazzetta”; a greeting and the school day begins.

Indeed Hayez's painting it is practically the only one that the public associates with the Venetian-Milanese painter. Maybe he doesn't remember the name, but the painting is known. The most frequent comment is: "Look how beautiful the effect of the skirt fabric is ..."

Strategic auto biography

We know everything about Francesco Hayez. It is perhaps the first case of "image strategy" consciously constructed and followed by an artist. It was he who dictated his "Memoirs" to his friend "Countess Giuseppina Negroni Prati Morosini", with the agreement to donate them to the Brera Academy after her death.

He was born in Venice on 10 February 1791. His family is very poor and for this reason little Francesco is entrusted to a wealthy maternal aunt from Milan, married to Francesco Binasco, an antiquarian and collector of works of art.

Thus he is introduced to painting with the intention of instructing him as a restorer. Entrusted to the guide of the Maggiotto (of the late eighteenth century school), he devours mythological and historical books and studies the great Venetian masters: from Giambattista Tiepolo and Sebastiano Ricci to Francesco Fontebasso and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and in particular Gregorio Lazzarini so as to imitate his way of painting clear and smooth.

The apprenticeship at the Maggiotto ends and his uncle Binasco realizes the particular talent of his "nephew". He sent it to the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice and at the age of 14 he won the first prize for nude drawing.

Big sponsor

The president of the Academy Count Leopoldo Cicognara it will give a decisive impulse to the aspirations of Francis. The count writes letters of recommendation addressed to cardinals and artists, including Antonio Canova. Hayez, with his uncle, leaves for Rome.

Presented at Canova as an "interpreter of national inspirations, capable of giving new life to the great Italian painting", Francesco has no difficulty in fitting into all the environments that matter.

With such "supporters", there is no shortage of consensus and victories. Count Cicognara financially supports him with great generosity and Canova becomes his artistic "manager".

In Milan, he then became master of the Brera Academy and at the same time honorary professor of the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna. Honors, academic assignments and important commissions accumulate smoothly.

Academy… c'est moi

Francesco Hayez's style can be summed up in one word: Academy.

Unlike many painters who stood out for being "against" something, the academic system, the technical rules of the "good way", the usual subjects, etc., Hayez is "with".

His prodigious technique, refined precisely with the study of the "progenitor" of the academic style Raffaello Sanzio, and the choice of traditional and historical themes and subjects make him a perfect representative of "official painting".

Hayez's contemporaries are Courbet, Millet and the realist painters of the Barbizon school and around 1850 in Italy already the Macchiaioli with Fattori and Signorini. In Great Britain there is Turner and in Spain Goya.

In the countless hagiographic comments and descriptions it is unrivaled and there is no room for any of the many signs of innovation already present.

On the other hand, how can "against" movements be created without consolidated realities ... "with"?

He died in Milan celebrated and honored on February 12, 1882.

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