The Italian left, the Fronte Democratico Popolare party, which was born in 1947, had printed on its flag a stylised face of Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) with the Italian national colours: red, white and green. Garibaldi had become not only a national hero; he had also become a symbol of the left. A large collection of Garibaldi’s photographic portraits taken by Italian and foreign photographers between 1866 and 1878, are in the Alinari collection in Florence. The photographs in this collection, all taken during the last twenty years of his life, show how the photographic interpretation of a past hero was evoked in contemporary photography, with the clear intention of celebrating the past and creating a myth for the future. In these portraits, the myth of the old hero is emphasized by his clothing and his posture. These details play a fundamental role in the construction of his character, both real and fictional, and generate a completely different visual and historical narrative from that portrayed in the romantic interpretation of earlier paintings. His fame was therefore built retrospectively through these portraits. Each one of these portraits shows a different Garibaldi. The fame of Garibaldi through his images rapidly increased becoming a powerful statement of political propaganda. His portraits and his political importance, together with his achievements, are integrated into the fabric of visual political culture from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. His many expressions and postures have become in Italy, symbols of freedom and courage. Giuseppe Garibaldi, hero of the Italian Risorgimento, during his life time was endlessly portrayed in paintings and all these portraits were a romantic interpretations of his character; and his gestures record poignant moments in his career. Almost every Italian city has a square bearing his name; dominated by a sculpture of Garibaldi in bronze and mounted on his horse. These images are tributes to his importance as a hero of the Risorgimento and a key founder of united Italy. However, while he was still fighting in America (1841-47) and then, after 1848 in Italy, for the creation of the united Italian state with the Giovane Italia movement, photography was still in its infancy. The aim of this paper is to study and compare a selection of portraits; the original from 1860s to the end of the nineteenth century, and the one recreated after that period, in order to see how the original photographs of Garibaldi were reinterpreted. The physiognomic details, the clothes and the various items represented in the photographs, contributed to shifting the image of a national hero into a stylized symbol of the left in the 20th century.
Dr Annalea Tunesi, Independent scholar
After attending the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan Annalea has been working for sixteenth years as Art director and set designer. In 2007 she started the MA course at University of Warwick, IESA. With her thesis, Why did Bardini use blue? In July 2014 she was awarded a PhD in museology at University of Leeds entitled Stefano Bardini’s Photographic Archive: A visual historical document. Her research interest begun with the Florentine Art Dealer Stefano Bardini (1836- 1922) and focuses on mediaeval and Renaissance revival in Florence and in Europe, and the iconological analysis of nineteenth century photographs and displays of interiors. Her area of interest is photography of nineteenth and twenty century; photographic archives, photographers and their relationship with artists, art dealers, art historians and museums.