Francesco Hayez's Il Bacio beats estimate by 86%

Il Bacio, a work by the Milanese romantic painter Francesco Hayez, realised $1.8m at Christie's on April 25, beating its estimate of $1m by 86.5%.

The piece dates to 1867 and is one of the most celebrated works of Italian romanticism.

Francisco Hayez Bacio
Francisco Hayez painted Il Bacio as an allegory for Italian unification

Hayez (1791-1882) painted five versions of the work, four oils and one watercolour.

It was originally commissioned by the Earl Alfonso Maria Visconti di Saliceto in 1859 and is ripe with symbolism.

In the mid-1800s Italy began to move from a patchwork system of small states towards unification, a process referred to as the Risorgimento.

The Austro-Hungarian empire was bitterly opposed to consolidation, as it controlled a number of Italian states, and moved to war.

However, Italy received support from Napoleon III of France and defeated the Austro-Hungarians in 1859.

In Hayez' painting, the woman's blue dress (combined with the whites and reds in the image) represents the flag of France - while the man is an Italian soldier heading to war.

He wears green and red, with a white sheet on the ground completing the Italian tricolour.

The original work is one of the centrepieces of Milan's Pinacoteca di Brera.

Hayez painted this version for himself. Interestingly the white sheet, which makes the symbolism overt, is not included in the original work.

William Adolphe Bouguereau's La Perle made $965,000.

Bouguereau (1825-1905) is considered one of the greatest academic painters and his works have a large following.

This nude was painted in 1894, towards the end of his life, and displays his skill in capturing the female form.

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