The Kiss by Francesco Hayez

The Kiss by Francesco Hayez (1859)

“……….A kiss is a lovely trick, designed by nature, to stop words when speech becomes unnecessary……”

                       Ingrid Bergman Swedish movie actress (1915 – 1982)

With the possible exception of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, the most famous painting featuring a kiss is Il Bacio by Francesco Hayez, as it is entitled in the Pinacoteca Brera in Milan, but to most of us, is known simply as The Kiss.  This masterpiece, painted by the Italian artist in 1859, is his most famous work and a prime example of Italian Romanticism. 

Francesco Hayez was born in Venice in 1791.  He was the youngest of five sons and was brought up by his maternal aunt who was married to Giovanni Binascoa a prosperous ship-owner and an avid art collector.  Living in this household the young Francesco showed a love for drawing and so his uncle arranged an apprenticeship for him with an art restorer.  At the age of eighteen, after studying under the Venetian artist Francisco Magiotto and the Italian artist Teodoro Matteini, he won a competition, the prize for which was a one year placement at the Academia di San Lucia in Rome.  He lived in Rome until 1814 and then moved to Naples.  In the mid 1830’s he moved once again, this time to Milan where in 1850 he was appointed director of the Academy of Brera.  For many years he taught at the Brera and he exercised great influence on his pupils.  The Academy of Brera has a large collection of his paintings including My Daily Art Display’s featured painting, The Kiss.  Francesco Hayez died in Milan in 1882 aged 91.

Although the two characters in the painting are dressed in 14th century costumes the painting was intended to celebrate the Risorgimento (resurgence), which was the nineteenth century movement that brought together all the separate Italian states and by so doing, bring about the unification of Italy. The red and green of the man’s clothes along with the white of the cuffs of the woman’s dress are the three colours of the Italian tricoloured flag (il Tricolore).  The man supporting the woman passionately kisses her.  It is not known who the characters are as the artist wanted the main focus of attention to be on the kiss itself rather than who were doing the kissing.

All in all it is probably the most sensual and spell-binding kiss ever to grace a canvas.