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Francesco, Franz, Ritter Franz von Hayez: Zur Rezeption des Romanticismo Storico in der deutschsprachigen Publizistik


After Canova’s death (1822), Italian contemporary art, especially painting, suffered from the widespread topos that Italy as “terre des morts” had frozen in historical self-reflection and therefore did not meet the demands of modern “romantic” art. One of the few internationally recognized exceptions was Francesco Hayez (1791–1882), whose history painting virtuosically combined modern literary subjects with elements derived from the Venetian tradition, such as the gestures of Canova and the colorfulness of Venetian Quattro and Cinquecento painting. His images, which are relevant from a historical, literary but also political point of view, have achieved great success at the regular exhibitions held by the Milan Academy of Art, and they also enjoy the favour of a wide range of collectors belonging to different social classes, from the merchant bourgeoisie to the urban aristocracy to the imperial house. In recent decades research has focused particularly on the artist's relationship with his aristocratic and democratic supporters. By contrast, this article attempts to reposition the artist within European Romanticism by means of his German-language reception. The cornerstone of Hayez's critical Fortuna in Germany and Austria is laid by the “Kunst-Blatt”, published by Ludwig Schorn, which has devoted great attention to the artist for many years in the reports by Schorn, Antoine Louis François Sergent and Franz von Kühlen. But it was above all in Austria that Hayez - if only because of his nationality - celebrated important successes. This is shown on the one hand by the appreciation of his work by Carl von Czörnig, Heinrich Levitschnigg and his painter colleague Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, and on the other hand by the purchase of his works by the imperial house and Austrian government officials. In addition to this success story, which has so far been only marginally investigated, this article also offers a glimpse into the process of alienation between the artist and his German-speaking public. While Hayez was perceived in Germany after 1848 only sporadically and if at all as an anachronistic theatre painter, the Austrian reception shows that, after the fall of Venice (1866) and the First World War, the once beloved painter was now perceived as a foreign element in the artistic life of the Habsburg Empire. The culmination of this development was an auction in 1928 at which the most important Italian paintings of the 19th century, once belonging to the Habsburg family and previously having been exhibited at the Belvedere (including Hayez's The Two Foscari), were sold and thus expatriated to Italy.