Ritratto di Alessandro Manzoni (Portrait of Alessandro Manzoni)

Francesco Hayez1874/1874

Galleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Galleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano
Milan, Italy

"Ritratto di Alessandro Manzoni" is the most widely dispersed and popular image of the Milanese writer, so much so that its fame has obscured the first official portraits of Manzoni, painted by Giuseppe Molteni in 1835. Painted in a celebratory tone, Manzoni was immortalized in an inspired pose in Molteni's work, with a book in his hand and Lake Como as the backdrop.

Here, however, Manzoni sits in a natural pose against a neutral background, as instructed by his wife, Teresa, and stepson, Stefano Stampa. This was the result of multiple sittings by the subject, and aimed to faithfully recreate the scene. The writer holds a snuff box, a hint at a domestic habit he had kept entirely private, which is now a historical and anecdotal aspect of this great man's character.

The painting found in the Galleria d'Arte Moderna is an exact replica of the famous Manzoni portrait created by Hayez in 1841, which is kept in the Pinocoteca di Brera art gallery. The replica was made to be shown at the Braidense exhibition in 1874, and was then donated by its creator to the Brera Academy; from here, it was eventually sent to this museum in 1902. The painting was greatly appreciated by intellectuals at the time, but did not find immediate success outside of Manzoni's entourage. This only occurred thanks to Stefano Stampa, who encouraged the conversion of the work into an intaglio print using an engraving technique, which established it as a typical, recognizable image of the author of "Promessi Sposi" (The Betrothed).


  • Title: Ritratto di Alessandro Manzoni (Portrait of Alessandro Manzoni)
  • Creator: Francesco Hayez
  • Creator Lifespan: 1791/1882
  • Date: 1874/1874
  • Physical Location: Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Milano
  • long term loan: Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: w90 x h118,5 cm
  • Provenance: Stored: Brera Academy, 1902
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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