The undisputed founder of the school of Romantic painting in Italy, Hayez started by studying the ancient plaster statues in the gallery of Palazzo Farsetti and attending courses at the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, then directed by Leopoldo Cicognara, as from 1803. In 1809, having received a grant making it possible to move to Rome, he took part in the most important commissions as a protégé of Antonio Canova and came into contact with Rome’s most advanced artistic circles. After a short parenthesis devoted to the execution of decorative works in Venice and Padua, the crucial turning point in his career came with the exhibition of a work on a historical subject that was to become the manifesto of Romantic painting at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera of 1820. A deputy for Luigi Sabatelli in the chair of painting at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, he moved definitively to Milan in 1823 and won broad acclaim with a repertoire of historical works of a patriotic character alluding to the Italian political situation, which led Giuseppe Mazzini to describe him as the painter of the nation. The 1830s saw a shift to works of a less overt character drawing inspiration from the Bible and mythology as well as growing fame as a portrait painter highly skilled in the subtle psychological probing of his subjects. In the climate of semi-pacification with Austria coinciding with the coronation of Ferdinand I, he obtained prestigious commissions from the Habsburg court and created decorations for the Room of Caryatids in Palazzo Reale. The recurrent theme of melancholy, the allegorical personification of the crisis in contemporary awareness, made its appearance in the 1840s. In conjunction with the crisis of the ideals of the struggle for Italian liberation, his history painting of Neo-Veneto derivation was revitalised through the influence of a culture of international breadth to inaugurate a new repertoire connected with the history of Venice.