The Volunteers Bid Farewell

Gerolamo Induno1877/1878

Fondazione Cariplo

Fondazione Cariplo
Milan, Italy

This painting was bought in 1971, and bears the label of the Galleria Pesaro in Milan on the back. It was the first idea or sketch for the painting The Departure of the Recruits in 1866 (Milan, Museo del Risorgimento) commissioned by Vittorio Emanuele II and displayed under the title Italie, 1866 at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris. An autograph replica was shown at the Milan Mostra Nazionale di Belle Arti in 1881, and is now held by the Fondazione Museo Francesco Borgogna in Vercelli. The work depicts a group of recruits who, after receiving the priest’s blessing, are bidding farewell to their dear ones before leaving to fight in the battles of the third war of independence. The episode refers to the events leading up to the granting of Venetia to the Kingdom of Italy, allied with Bismarck’s Prussia against the Habsburg Empire, following the signing of the Treaty of Vienna. The scene, possibly set in a village in the Valtellina area like those in other paintings executed by the artist between 1875 and 1877, is delimited by the uplands in the distance. The church functions like scenery, and we can see the side entrance, the belfry and the portico. Among the crowd there are several women and children in traditional dress; the word “Italia” written on the tavern sign implies that the process of national unification still has to be completed. The works in Milan and Vercelli differ from the canvas in the Cariplo Collection in some respects, for example in the outline of the mountains and the rural architecture that delimits the compositions on the left. But there is one very significant variant concerning the historical and political meaning of the scene. In the canvas in Cariplo Collection the volunteers receive the blessing from the priest, while in the work commissioned by the king that was shown in Paris and in its replica they are received by the mayor, wearing the tricolour sash, who bids them farewell from the church courtyard, while standing next to the priest. This change of roles is indicative of the painter’s political correctness: in 1878 he felt it necessary, given the extremely tense relationship existing between the Kingdom of Italy and the Vatican State a few years after the Breach of Porta Pia, to avoid depicting the initial support given by part of the “low clergy” to the issues of the Risorgimento – although this is perfectly credible – by substituting the priest with the more acceptable figure of the mayor, recognisable by his tricolour sash, who does not appear in the sketch. Nor must we forget that the painter himself participated in Garibaldi’s Tyrolean campaign as a volunteer in 1866, which must certainly have contributed to the liveliness and realism that characterises the canvas in the Cariplo Collection. These features were in keeping with the everyday yet heroic nature of the history painting linked to contemporary events which from the mid-19th century distinguished the artist’s work and that of his brother Domenico Induno, whose A Follower of Garibaldi Bids Farewell and Bulletin Announcing the Peace of Villafranca are also in the Cariplo Collection.


  • Title: The Volunteers Bid Farewell
  • Creator: Gerolamo Induno
  • Creator Lifespan: 1825/1890
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Milan
  • Creator Birth Place: Milan
  • Date: 1877/1878
  • Signature: G. Induno
  • Physical Dimensions: w43 x h29,5 cm (Without frame)
  • Provenance: Cariplo Foundation, 1971
  • Type: Painting, oil on canvas
  • Rights: http://www.artgate-cariplo.it/en/disclaimer.html
  • External Link: www.artgate-cariplo.it

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