Francesco Hayez, the rediscovered masterpiece is on display at Milan's GAM

At GAM in Milan from November 13, 2018 to February 17, 2019, the exhibition 'Hayez. A rediscovered masterpiece'

On view from November 13, 2018, to February 17, 2019, at GAM in Milan is the exhibition Hayez. A rediscovered masterpiece, which presents to the public four versions of an important work by Francesco Hayez (Venice, 1791 - Milan, 1882), Valenza Gradenigo before the inquisitors: in particular, the focus of the exhibition is on one of the four versions, the last one in chronological order, whose existence was known but which had never been found until now. The discovery of the work on the antiquities market by a collector and its attribution to Francesco Hayez offered GAM the opportunity to present the painting to the public, reconstructing its history and comparing it with the other three versions of the same subject, created by the painter between 1832 and 1845 and loaned by Brera, Gallerie d’Italia and a private collector. The four works are placed in dialogue with other valuable canvases by Hayez (from the large portraits, including that of Alessandro Manzoni and Matilde Juva Branca, to the Penitent Magdalene) and with early Romantic history paintings exhibited in the rooms of the GAM, which, together with Brera, preserves the most significant nucleus of Hayez’s works.

The painting’s subject matter (Venetian noblewoman Valenza Gradenigo, guilty of trying to save her beloved Antonio Foscarini, convicted of treason in 1662, is brought before Inquisition judges, including her father) is emblematic of the shift in Hayez’s painting to a romanticized and sentimental binary, which in these years contributes to the construction of the myth of a murky and mysterious Venice, hailed by great success. As in a film sequence, Hayez dedicated as many as four paintings to the story, brought together for the first time at GAM and confronted with derivations that attest to its success with the public, the literary sources that provided inspiration, such as the tragedy Antonio Foscarini or the French novel Foscarini ou le patricien de Venise, and the unpublished studies and preparatory drawings preserved in the Hayez collection at the Brera Academy.

At first glance, the protagonist might appear to be one of the many heroines who are easy to faint and whom critics of the past charged with theatricality (“she faints as prescribed the maiden,” wrote Giulio Carlo Argan in a famous critique of Hayez’s Sicilian Vespers ), but in the last two decades critics have challenged this cliché by reknotting the threads of the relationship between art, history, melodrama, theater, music and literature, restoring to Hayez’s work the richness of a painting capable of being both ancient and modern at the same time. Valenza Gradenigo before the inquisitors marks a new course in Hayez’s painting, the shift to a representation of history centered on human passions that found an ideal stage in a fantastic and mythical Venice.

“At the same time as the major exhibition on Romanticism currently underway at the Gallerie d’Italia,” emphasizes Filippo Del Corno, councillor for culture of the City of Milan, “GAM offers the public a fascinating and scholarly lunge into the figure of Francesco Hayez, who is represented in the museum’s collection with an important nucleus of works, some of which are absolutely iconic. In fact, Milan manages to offer different points of view with respect to a common theme thanks to a network of relationships between artistic and cultural institutions that is nourished every day by mutual influences and fruitful exchanges.”

The exhibition can be visited during GAM’s opening hours (Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., last entry one hour earlier, closed Mondays). You enter with the museum ticket: full 5 euros, reduced 3 euros. More information on the GAM website. Exhibition realized thanks to the contribution of UBS as part of the partnership established in 2013 between the banking institution and the GAM of Milan. Through this agreement, the Gallery of Modern Art has been able to carry out activities for the enhancement, maintenance and dissemination of some key nuclei of its collections within the museum itinerary. Hashtag of the exhibition: #hayezGAM

Pictured: Francesco Hayez, Valenza Gradenigo before the inquisitors (1843-1845; Private collection)

Francesco Hayez, the rediscovered masterpiece is on display at Milan's GAM
Francesco Hayez, the rediscovered masterpiece is on display at Milan's GAM

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