The exhibition on Francesco Hayez at the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan and the three versions of “The Kiss” gives us an opportunity to explore the connection of this famous painting with the Ernani-style hat and the significance of this now-forgotten Italian symbol that we have chosen to represent us.
To launch the exhibition, a successful flash mob was organized.
How come such a strongly dated painting as Hayez’s “The Kiss” was able to attract so many young people?
I think the fundamental reason for this is that it is a work about passion: obvious passion, such as that which binds the two protagonists, and symbolic passion, which we will try to discover.
The young man’s hat-worn and pointed out at the flash mob by the many participants-gives us the key to understanding the protagonist’s other great passion, unmasked incidentally also by his foot on the step, which tells us of the next battlefield to which he is destined for the love of Italy.
Symbolism was the tool to spread, bypassing censorship, the ideas of freedom that snaked throughout the peninsula from north to south.
We can find it in Alessandro Manzoni’s Ode “Marzo 1821,” in the cry “Viva Verdi (= W Vittorio Emanuele Re D’Italia)” of young people who were enthusiastic about Verdi’s music and the libertarian ideals behind it, and in the hat, which as in a fil rouge we trace on the heads of the southern brigands who fought against the Bourbon regime.
We find symbolism on the head of Ernani, a bandit protagonist of Verdi’s opera of the same name, who became the image of one who fights for the affirmation of justice.
The very hat used by Ernani was named the Ernani hat and was used by ordinary people to represent their desire to live free in a united homeland.
The various fashions of this hat were made necessary to overcome the ban by the Austrians, but they all had one thing in common: feathers.
It is not by chance that we find this hat as a companion and emblem of the Alpini and discover the Ernani-style hat in Hayez’s “The Kiss.”
The painting, picking up the threads of this simple reasoning, takes us back to the atmosphere of those years with the emotional and evocative capacity that is proper to art.
And it is significant that it had such great acceptance; it means that even today, fragile, lost, disappointed, challenged as we are, we need to recover hope, passion, certainty and genuineness.