HAYEZ, Francesco
(b. 1791, Venezia, d. 1882, Milano)

Meditation on the History of Italy

1850
Oil on canvas, 90 x 70 cm
Private collection

The painting is also known as Meditation on the Old and New Testaments.

The darkened glance of the beauty in this painting is not really directed at the viewer. She is sunk in thought, looking out of the canvas in a pre-occupied way. In her right hand she holds a folio bearing the words "Storia d'Italia", this is to say a symbol of knowledge. Her left hand holds the symbol of faith, the Cross, that has played so great a part in Italy's history. Her naked breast is highly provocative when seen with the black cross of mourning. She is perhaps the allegory of Italy in the 19th century, and the gaze with which this figure of "Italia" confronts the viewer creates a suggestive, almost hypnotic effect. She seems to be in a state between waking and dreaming. This is meditation that has not yet reached a solution, meditation in which grief predominates.