By: Amy Fredrickson 

Francesco Hàyez was born in Venice on 10 February 1791. Hàyez was an Italian painter and printmaker, and his most famous works were his portrait paintings and depictions of romantic historical scenes. Hàyez was a crucial figure in the transition from Neoclassicism to Romanticism in Italian art. His uncle Giovanni Binasco, a patron of the arts, introduced Hàyez to painting, hoping he would become a restorer. Hàyez studied with Venetian painters Francesco Magiotti and Teodoro Matteini and attended l’Accademia di Venezia.

Hàyez won a scholarship in 1809 to study painting in Rome, where he could absorb classical art and Raphael’s paintings, as well as study with antonio Canova. In 1812, Hàyez won a painting competition at the Accademia di Brera on the theme of the Laocoön, which is when he established himself as an artist in Roman art circles, particularly among the classicists.  By 1823, he was working in Milan, and his oeuvre explored biblical and fictional narratives, with an interest in depicting Italian historical scenes. Often his compositions explored contemporary political and social issues, set in a historical context.

His contemporaries considered The Kiss to be one of his most exquisite paintings. The subject matter appealed to a modern audience because it did not require a learned viewer to interpret the scene. The Kiss debuted in 1859 at the Brera Exhibition, which celebrated the successful conclusion of the struggles of the Risorgimento. The portrayal of the couple is an allegorical representation of the Risorgimento, which was the unification movement that eventually led to Italian independence in 1870. Hàyez dressed his figures in the colours of the national flags of Italy and France, which represented the two nations’ alliance during the Second War of Independence. The Kiss was symbolic because it represents the birth of Italy, and proved to be an immediate success for its patriotic tenets and motivation of the newly independent young nation to succeed. The medieval inspiration of the subject was typical of the Romantic tastes of the period. The painting subsequently became an iconic image of the Brera Pinacoteca and may be one of the most widely reproduced Italian paintings of the nineteenth century. Hàyez also painted other versions on this theme, and, he sent a second version to the International Exhibition of 1867 in Paris. The Kiss entered the Pinacoteca’s permanent collection in 1886.

In addition to painting, Hàyez also taught at the Brera in Milan, and he was appointed director in 1860. His completed his last large-scale works, the paintings Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and Marin Faliero, in 1867. He painted his final work, Vase of Flowers in the Window of a Harem, a year before his death on 21 December 1882.


Rinaldo and Armida, 1812-13, Oil on canvas, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

The Two Foscari, c. 1852, Oil on canvas, 121 x 168 cm, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

Crusaders Thirsting near Jerusalem1836-50, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Reale, Turin

The Kiss, 1859, Oil on canvas, 112 x 88 cm, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan


 ‘Francesco Hàyez – Art E Dossier’, Artedossier.It, 2018 [7 February 2018]

 ‘Francesco Hàyez (1791 – 1881) | National Gallery, London’, Nationalgallery.Org.Uk, 2018 [7 February 2018]

 ‘Hàyez, Francesco Nell’enciclopedia Treccani’, Treccani.It, 2018 [7 February 2018]

 Further Reading:

Gozzoli, Maria Cristina and Fernando Mazzocca, Hàyez, (Milano: Electa, 1983).

Mazzocca, Fernando, Hàyez, (Firenze : Giunti, 1998)

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