Inside Support: The representation of patriotic women in the visual art of the Risorgimento

by Eugenio F. BIAGINI

The surviving written evidence, for both patriots and reactionaries, predominantly concerns upper-class women. Of course, this reflects the nature of the evidence studied so far, and the interests of the historians who have examined it. Both are likely to change in years to come. One primary source increasingly used by historians is provided by contemporary paintings and prints. Although Banti has devoted considerable attention to “historical” paintings as an expression of the Nazione del Risorgimento in its making, he has restricted his attention to early Romantic artists such as Francesco Hayez (1791-1881). Hayez specialized in portraits and “heroic” paintings of medieval and Renaissance episodes, and appropriated for nationalistic purposes themes from the older regional patriotisms. Such is the case for I Vespri Siciliani (1844-6), which celebrated a Medieval rising of the Sicilians against the French invaders.