Francesco Hayez - inv. 4700
In this work, a sort of manifesto of Milan’s Romanticism, considered one of the most extraordinary portraits in the nineteenth-century European painting, Francesco Hayez has depicted himself surrounded by friends.
On the left we can see the painters Pelagio Palagi, at the top, and Giovanni Migliara, in profile; on the right, the painter Giuseppe Molteni, wearing a top hat, and the writer and poet Tommaso Grossi, the only one with a bare head.
In the foreground and in the centre of the scene, Hayez has curiously chosen to paint himself in an unassuming yet ironical and self-satisfied attitude. Like Pelagi and Migliara, he is wearing a painter’s peaked beret and a pair of round glasses that do not appear in any other portrait of him.
This self-portrait that the artist has transformed into a group portrait has been considered as the equivalent, in painting, to a dialect poem by Tommaso Grossi, Brindisi. Jokingly praising Hayez’s talent and good nature, these verses had been recited by Grossi in 1824 at a dinner organised by Molteni to celebrate their friend’s recovery from a long illness.
The unfinished background blends and merges with the material of their garments and unites the group of friends, endowing the artists with a feeling of intellectual fraternity: friendship and belonging are perhaps the real subject of this canvas.
The year of 1827, written in ink low down on the left, is not held to be by the artist and the small picture might have been painted nearer the date of the above-mentioned banquet.