Francesco Hayez - inv. 4131
For this self-portrait, Hayez chose an unusual horizontal format and a remarkable viewpoint for the image. Still young, the artist does not occupy the centre of the painting but has placed himself in a corner, from where he turns his head to look rather quizzically at the spectator. He is wearing working clothes and a painter’s floppy beret, similar to those seen in various portraits by Rembrandt.
Almost the whole of the painting is occupied by a cage containing a lion and a tiger. The wild animal theme, interpreted in the past as an allegory of art dominating nature, was dear to the romantic taste for the Orient. A preparatory drawing for the majestic figure of the lion is in the Brera Academy in Milan.
The work is datable to the beginning of the 1830s, by which time Hayez had moved from Venice to the Lombard capital. It therefore belongs to his youthful production, as does another self-portrait belonging to the Museum in which the painter has shown himself at the centre of a group of friends.