A young couple in Medieval attire is standing below the steps locked in a deep kiss. The man is wearing a brown hat and a cape, while the woman is clothed in an elegant blue silk dress. Both appear to be of noble class. Is the couple that has recently fallen in love? Or a tragic couple engaged in forbidden love?
“The Kiss,” which was created by Italian Romanticism painter kiss Francesco Hayez (1791-1882), is likened to the symbol of the Brera museum in Milan. Though it appears to depict romantic love of the couple, it symbolizes patriotism. The young man in the painting is an Italian soldier, bidding goodbye to his lover before leaving to the fields to fight against the Austrian Empire. The kiss is passionate and longing as it may be their last. Most of Italian land back then, including Milan, had been under Austria’s rule, so Italians yearned for independence. Influenced by the French Revolution and liberalism, the citizens of Milan staged an armed resistance against Austria’s rule in 1848, which resulted in 400 casualties over a five-day battle. The fight for independence failed, but Hayez could not give up his wish for freedom.
A decade later, France helped Italy to attack the Austrian Empire and Hayez‘s “The Kiss” was created in celebration of this victory. A closer look at the painting shows that the three colors of France, which symbolize liberty, equality and philanthropy, are present. This symbolizes appreciation for France, particularly for the painter who grew up under a French father and Italian mother.
Wishes do come true. After continuous fight for independence and unification that lasted half a century, Italy finally became unified in 1871. The couple in the painting is a symbol of the spirit for unification and a self-reflection of Italians who earnestly wished for love and peace.