Portrait of a Woman, Francesca Majnoni d'Intignano dell'Acquafredda
Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)
1829, Oil on canvas
An excellent example of the portraiture of one of the most celebrated and gifted artists of Italian Romanticism, this painting portrays a lady of Milanese high society in 1829, Francesca Majnoni, the widow of Stefano Bernardo Majnoni d'Intignano who had died three years earlier. Her husband had been director general of the Kingdom of Italy’s monopolies, court councillor and director of the tobacco factory for Emperor Franz I of Austria, who had conferred Austrian nobility on him in 1819, allowing d'Intignano to be added to his name. He had married Francesca in 1803 and they had 10 children together. This may be the reason for the somewhat sad expression of the woman as depicted in the portrait, which was painted during the years when she had decided to sell her husband's numismatic collection to support the family's needs. It is a magnificent portrait: Hayez portrayed the not so beautiful, mature mother with verisimilitude, a criterion that was the basis of his artistry, lending intensity and vividness to her facial expression through her gaze. The turban on her head is an extraordinary work of bravura, as is the definition of the deep black robe that contrasts with the tenderly painted flesh tones. This image stands out for the sharply drawn contours which place the figure in silhouette against a uniform background to fascinating effect.