The painting was executed for the brothers Enrico and Gaetano Taccioli, well-known patriots who commissioned other important works from Francesco Hayez, and was shown in the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera in 1835. The canvas, which was the property of Litta Modignani in 1934, reappeared on the antique market in the 1990s when it was purchased by Cariplo. The episode of Peter the Hermit preaching in the square of Clermont, in the presence of Urban II is inspired by Joseph-François Michaud’s Histoire des croisades, translated into Italian in 1826. After the Council held in Clermont in November 1095, the pope launched his famous appeal inviting Christian knights to intervene in defence of the Church, and to aid their Eastern brothers in the Holy Land. In his faithful pictorial transposition of the literary text Hayez arranges the scene around the tall throne erected for the pope in the square packed with a huge crowd, and focuses on the main events: Peter the Hermit’s preaching and the distribution of red cloth crosses destined to be worn by those who engaged to do battle. This canvas once again displays the artist’s indisputable skill in rendering the garments and setting within the precise reconstruction of an episode drawn from medieval history, and above all it reveals the potential of history painting to express the feelings and reactions of a crowd. Powerful dramatic and emotional moments alternate with moving elegiac scenes of farewell, like that of the couple kissing in the foreground or the woman left alone with her baby, an obvious allusion to the father’s departure. When it appeared in 1835 it had a mixed reception from the critics: some said the composition was disorganized in its orchestration of the numerous different groups and the handling was too hasty especially as regards the crowd in the distance, but most praised the freshness of the execution and the rich variety of expression. Hayez also painted other works on the theme of the Crusades, full of political allusions to the contemporary Italian situation and the need for national liberation: the famous Peter the Hermit, 1829 (private collection), a real appeal to the cause of independence, and Thirst for the Crusades (Turin, Palazzo Reale).