Lega, Silvestro (Italian, 1826-1895)

The Dying Mazzini (Mazzini morente)

Reference Type:
Silvestro Lega did not visit Italian revolutionary and patriot Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) on his deathbed; instead, he made sketches of his head from memory and visited the room where he died. When this unusual portrait was exhibited publicly for the first time, critics noted how its mood was so very different from the active and exciting life of the man who tirelessly strove to create a united Italy. Underneath the large checked shawl can be seen the black suit Mazzini wore as a symbol of mourning for his divided homeland. The painting is extremely sad, but also peaceful, an impression enhanced by the artist’s use of pastel colors on the wall that gently reflect on the sheets, pillowcase, shawl, and even Mazzini’s beard, uniting the entire scene in a quiet and introspective mood that encourages the contemplation of life and death. Notes by Mariann Smith
Death and Dying
Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence