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The reappearance of a masterpiece of history painting that the most outstanding exponent of Italian Romanticism, Francesco Hayez, painted in his years of maturity, notably the fourth version of Valenza Gradenigo davanti agli inquisitori [Valenza Gradenigo before the Inquisition] is the occasion to display this important oil on canvas to the public, reconstructing its history and confronting it with the three previous versions that the painter devoted to this subject. It represents a key element for the genre of history painting that testifies not only to Hayez’s interest in the history of Venice, but to the stylistic and poetic changes in his painting.

Guilty of having attempted to save her beloved Antonio Foscarini, ambassador of the Republic of Venice condemned for high treason in 1622, Valenza Gradenigo is led before the judges of the Inquisition, including her father, before whom, realizing she has no way out, the young woman faints. The episode is inspired by the French novel Foscarini ou le patricien de Venise and the historical vicissitudes of Foscarini, made famous at the time by the homonymous tragedy by playwright Giovanni Niccolini (1827).

This subject is emblematic of Hayez painting on a sentimental and romantic track. In this period, Hayez builds up the myth of an obscure and mysterious Venice, which was particularly popular with the public. As in a cinematographic sequence, Hayez devoted up to four paintings to this theme over a span of fifteen years. The four paintings are gathered in this exhibition for the first time, along with preparatory drawings and sketches, and related works (etchings, illustrations, pamphlets), which attest to the success of this theme with the public and its iconographic fortune.

The first version dates back to 1832, but only three years later, in 1835, Hayez returns to the theme with a more structured and theatrical setting composition. Ten years later, Hayez will present this same subject in two other versions of large dimensions, which have been recently recovered. The latter testify to the fame enjoyed by Hayez abroad: in fact, they were painted for a Viennese merchant and for Count Lützow, a nobleman of Austrian origins. While similar in the setting, in which Hayez widens the scene conferring more solemnity, they differ in the posture and in the clothes of the characters, in the rendering of the light and the colours. In the four versions, Hayez interprets the scene with different cadences, now more dramatic and concentrated, adjusting his expressive modes that are reminiscent of the grand tradition of Venetian painting, from Carpaccio to Tiziano and Tintoretto.

Galleria D'Arte Moderna di Milano
via Palestro 16 - 20121 Milano

Tuesday to Sunday  9.00 - 17.30
(final admission one hour before closing).
Closed on Moday

• ordinary ticket   € 5,00
• discount ticket  € 3,00

Free admission the first Sunday and the first and third Tuesday of the month from 14:00.
For details, see  Hours and Admission