Francesco Hayez (Venice 1791 – Milan 1882), Rebecca
Oil on canvas cm 30, 5 x 23, datable to 1828
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Quadreria: dipinti ed acquarelli dal XVIII al XX secolo, exhibition curated by Serenella Rolfi and Chiara Stefani, held in Galleria Carlo Virgilio in Rome, 20th November – 22th December 1999; Sublime e pittoresco: temi di figura e paese dal neoclassico al romantico, Galleria Carlo Virgilio, Milano international antiques and modern exhibition, 21st-26th November 2006
– Mazzocca, in Ottocento, 1992, w.n.p.
– Francesco Hayez. Catalogo ragionato, curated by Fernando Mazzocca, Federico Motta editore, Milan 1994, n. 127, p. 190
– Quadreria: dipinti ed acquarelli dal XVIII al XX secolo, exhibition catalogue curated by Serenella Rolfi and Chiara Stefani, with an introductory essay by F. Mazzocca, held in Galleria Carlo Virgilio, Rome, 20th November – 22th December 1999, Aurelia, Rome 1999, pp. 42-43
– Sublime e pittoresco: temi di figura e paese dal neoclassico al romantico, catalogue curated by Stefano Grandesso, Francesco Leone, Edizioni del Borghetto, Rome 2006, Galleria Carlo Virgilio, Rome, Milano international antiques and modern exhibition, 21st-26th November 2006, p. 35
The small painting has a precise iconographic and chronological reference in the series of lithographs titled Soggetti tratti dall’Ivanhoe, romanzo storico, di Walter Scott, composti e disegnati da Hayez, published with great success by the Milanese lithography of Giuseppe Vassalli between 1828 and 1829 (Falchetti, in Hayez, 1983, pp. 349-351). The oil, where the sloping nuances of the background evoke the typical nuanced rendering of the lithographic stone, testifies, as observed by Grandesso, although still in an embryonic state, the artist’s interest in the representation of those female figures whose biography or whose allegorical translation would have been imposed, in a few years, as exemplars of the patriotic commitment or of the civil message which, according to the demands of the romantic debate, the figurative arts had to know how to transfuse.
Using the brush as if it were a lithographic pencil (contrary to the habits of contemporary painters, who entrusted their inventions to a “translator”, Hayez drew directly on the stone), the painter managed to obtain an image with a nervous chromatic texture and refined, where the preciousness serves to emphasize the details of the costume. As Mazzocca noted, the ideal image of the character was instead rendered by that beautiful “head-air” that has an obvious and appropriate reference in the tradition of 17th century classicism, between the Cleopatras by Reni and the Sibyls by Domenichino. Hayez, however, clearly translated into the vaunted dimension of the literary sphere and sublimated according to the canons of an ideal feminine beauty, seems to resume in the oval of Rebecca the features of Carolina Zucchi, the easy and perfect model whom the painter bound as a lover during the first ten years spent in Milan.