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A Kiss is Just a Kiss, Or is It?

The Kiss by Francesco Hayez remains one of the most iconic Italian paintings ever. The artist was the leading figure of Romanticism in mid-19th-century Italy, renowned for his grand historical subjects, political symbolism, and exceptionally fine depictions of people.  He enjoyed painting both the nobility and the common folk seen in the city during his time. He was also a fan of the female form, depicting it often in his various works.

Hayez, an Italian painter who took part in the Romanticism and Neoclassicism movements, carried an interest in Italian history, often using it as the theme for his paintings. The Romanticism movement focused on personal emotion and individualism, rejecting rationality and idealization. The Painting depicts a passionate young couple in the Medieval period sharing one of the most intense kisses in Western art. Their faces are not made visible so that the action, the kiss itself, is the focus of the piece. This painting carries rich color, lush lighting effects, and a beautiful symbol of unity and affection. With high contrast of the dramatic lighting on the woman’s blue dress and the deep shadows under the man’s red cloak, this painting remains a superb example of Italian Neoclassical art.

Many people saw The Kiss as a patriotic icon, a symbol of Risorgimento, or the unity of Italy during a time period where nationalism and patriotism were growing steadily. The darkened shadows on the left side of the canvas imply danger and the possibility of being watched. It brings to mind the spirit of Risorgimento, a political and social movement that supported unification in Italy. Some even believe that the pale blue of the woman’s gown represent France as a strong ally to Italy during that movement.

Whether you enjoy the romantic sensuality of a couple caught in a loving embrace, or you are intrigued by the possibility of it having a hidden agenda, The Kiss is a wonderful piece of art to add to your home. It can spark a lively discussion between you and your guests.

Amanda Hadley

About the Author

Amanda graduated from the University of Kansas, where she studied English literature and got a masters degree in library sciences. She enjoys reading, cooking and playing with her nephews. Her best friend is her little dog Brady.