Francesco Hayez, The Kiss, 1859

After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Italy was divided into states that were either ruled or influenced by the Hapsburgs of the Austrian Empire. The Italians resented this rule and wanted a unified Italian state. The first war of Italian Independence in 1848 failed, but secret alliances among Italian states continued to percolate, which culminated in the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. It is during these years of underground agreements between allies that Hayez painted The Kiss, which represents the secret unification of Italy. The man’s foot is poised on the step, suggesting that he will have to leave his lover in just a second. In the shadows in the doorway we can see a man’s dark shadow approaching.

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