Francesco Hayez (Italian, 1791-1881), Manrico Imprisoned in the Bell Tower, c.1860, oil on canvas, 39″ x 21″
Hayez studied in Venice, Naples, and Rome, and in 1823 moved to Milan, where he was named Director of the Academy of Brera. Although trained as a Neoclassical painter, by the mid-19th century he was thought to be one of the leading Romantic artists in Italy. He is best known for his 1859 painting Il Bacio [The Kiss], a symbol of Italian Romanticism. Manrico Imprisoned in the Bell Tower is a scene from Il Trovatore, an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi, which premiered on January 19, 1853 in Rome, Italy
Pictured is Manrico in his prison cell, singing to his dying mother moments before his own execution by Count Di Luna.
Il Trovatore takes place in a 15th century Spanish town.
Count di Luna, a nobleman in the service of the Prince of Aragon
Manrico, a troubadour and officer in the army – condemned to death due to his political affiliations
Azucena, a gypsy, supposedly Manrico’s mother – held captive by di Luna
Leonora, noble lady, in love with Manrico and courted by Di Luna
Ruiz, Manrico’s henchman
When Count diLuna’s two sons were small children an elderly
witch cast a spell on one of them. For this crime, she was burned at the stake. In revenge, her daughter, the witch Azucena, stole the Count’s other son and cast him into a fire. For years now, everyone has pursued this woman, anxious to bring her to justice. Meanwhile, the ghost of her mother continues to haunt the region in the form of an owl. Outside, Count Di Luna waits to court the lovely Leonora. Leonora confides to her friend, Inez, her love for the troubadour Manrico.
Di Luna loves Leonora and is jealous of his successful rival, Manrico.
Azucena sings about the horrifying experience of seeing her mother wrongly burned alive for the supposed crime of bewitching Count di Luna’s child. She explains to her son Manrico (the mysterious troubadour) how she had stolen a child of the Count’s, intending to cast him into the flames in revenge. Mistakenly, however, she threw her own child to the fire instead. At this moment, the audience may be aware that Manrico is, in fact, the brother of his rival, Count di Luna. Manrico, however, remains puzzled and questions Azucena about his true identity.
Manrico and Leornora are happily in love and are about to give their hands to one another in marriage. As they say their vows, Manrico’s friend, Ruiz, rushes in to tell them that Azucena was captured and sentenced to burn at the stake. Manrico stops everything and rushes to her aid.
When Manrico arrived outside of his mother’s prison, he too was captured. Di Luna orders his execution. Manrico sings his sad farewell to life. Ruiz brings Leonora to the prison where she vows to save him. Not long after, di Luna arrives at the prison. Leonora attempts to free Manrico by begging di Luna for mercy and offers herself in place of her lover. She promises to marry the count, but secretly swallows poison from her ring in order to die before di Luna can possess her.
Manrico and Azucena are awaiting their execution. Manrico attempts to soothe Azucena, whose mind wanders to happier days in the mountains. Within their cell, Manrico comforts his aging mother, who has now begun to fall asleep. Leonora arrives and urges Manrico to escape. However, after learning she has promised herself to the count, he feels betrayed and refuses to leave his cell. Within moments, the effects of the poison begin to show and Leonora falls into Manrico’s arms. She tells Manrico that she’d rather die in his arms than to be married to another man. Count di Luna walks into the cell moments after Leonora dies and sees her lifeless body in Manrico’s arms. He orders his men to execute Manrico.
Azucena wakes and sees the execution of Manrico and she shouts that her mother has been avenged, for di Luna has killed his own brother!