Francesco Hayez - inv. 280
The work is an academic study from life, that is, a direct study of the sitter, that aims to render a face or a figure in greater depth. In this case, the artist has concentrated on the features of an old man, whose face recurs in at least one of the “character heads” made by Hayez. The sitter stares at the spectator, his gaze full of tired resignation, while the painting insists on describing every line that furrows his brow and thickens his features.
A label on the back of the painting states that the work “was done by Hayez when he was 84 years old”, consequently in 1875, and that it was donated the same year to doctor Pasta. At that period, the elderly maestro, professor of painting at the Brera Academy since 1850, had given up producing his superb historical paintings, which, with his portraits, had placed him among the greatest figures on the national artistic stage.
Most probably, doctor Pasta can be identified as Carlo Pasta, a surgeon originally from Ticino but with a degree from Pavia and active in Milan, where he had made an excellent career. A portrait of Carlo Pasta, now lost, was painted by Hayez in 1881.
In 1890, Pasta himself donated this work to the Museum. If the identification of the donor is correct this would tie in with his relationship with Milanese artistic circles: the deceased painter Bernardino Pasta (Mendrisio 1828 – 1875) was in fact Carlo’s brother and a friend of Giuseppe Bertini, at that time director of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum.