A Milanese Artistic Keepsake in Pre-Unitary Italy (1845-61)

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The Keepsake

In the book trade terminology of the 19th century, a 'keepsake' was an expensive, illustrated book meant to be bought and given as a gift for the New Year. This online archive brings together the contents of 'Gemme d'arti italiane', a series of collected artworks and commentaries published between 1845 and 1861 in the kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, before the unification of Italy. The 'Gemme' ran for 14 volumes with a four year pause caused by revolts against the Austrian Empire beginning in 1848. It was published by Paolo Ripamonti Carpano, who owned a typographic workshop and publishing houses in Milan, Venice and Verona.

Illustrated by capable engravers, 'Gemme d'arti italiane' features reproductions of important works of art of the time, including the very famous Meditazione by Francesco Hayez (1851), which was dramatically altered by order of censors to make it acceptable for printing. The woman in the painting shown is a symbol of the ideal of Italian independence defeated in 1848. She was not allowed to show any proud beauty or desire for revenge in her intense gaze, and as a consequence the engraver had show her with her eyes lowered as a repentant Mary Magdalene (1852).

This site is intended to be an online companion to a work on this topic, which can be bought in hard copy from Amazon. Quality scans of the collected artworks and a selection of original commentary texts can be found in the image gallery (in PDF format).

This site is dedicated to all lovers of Italian language and art, especially that of the 19th century.