As noted by Dr Nelly Missirli, "The Young Man's Farewell is a work of exceptional quality, which illustrates the great skill of Theodoros Vryzakis. The painting is an affectionate depiction of the subjects and their costumes, rendered in a romantic-idealistic manner. The farewell scene occupies the foreground, set against the Acropolis Hill, the Theseion and the mountains of Attica. The couple are standing; the beautiful young girl leans lovingly on the youth; he holds her tenderly and protectively in his arms. Their faces betray a hint of sadness over their imminent, painful parting. At the same time, the lavish costumes with their patterns of red, white and gold, and the rich fabrics lend a festive air to the scene. Sitting near them, a friend casts a melancholic glance at the couple. The two girls had most probably gone for a walk in the country to enable the meeting to take place. She too wears flowers in her hair and a festive costume. With her left hand, she offers a garland of flowers to the young lovers; other flowers are spread on the ground. This is an allegorical gesture, symbolizing love as well as the victory and the liberty soon to come. Although this element of hope is absent in the other two works by Vryzakis on a similar theme - one in the National Gallery and Alexandros Soutzos Museum, and the other in the Yiannis Perdios collection, Athens - the tenderness and sweet melancholy of the couple, and the romantic landscape are common elements in all three. In the small work entitled Solace, the Athens landscape is depicted with more realism, free from any romantic idealisation.
Judging by the dates of the two similar works the present painting must have been executed during the period 1860-63, at the height of Vryzakis' artistic achievement. The idealized beauty of the two young women and their formal dress are reminiscent of Vryzakis' The Maid of Athens in the Yiannis Perdios collection, made during the same period.
Theodoros Vryzakis was the first in a line of Greek painters who studied in Munich, nurtured on the ideas of the philhellene King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Vryzakis' works reflect the European intellectual stance at the time toward Classicism, Romanticism and Philhellenism, which inspired not only painters but also poets, writers, and men of arts and letters.
The son of a freedom fighter killed by the Turks, Vryzakis was selected by the classical scholar Friedrich Thiersch, King Otto's teacher in Greece, to receive a scholarship to the school established by King Ludwig in Munich for the orphaned children of the Greeks who had died during the Greek War of Independence. The recent glorious achievements of the Greeks in their War of Independence and the splendour of ancient Greece were constantly extolled at the school. Vryzakis later trained as an artist under Peter von Hess, who visited Greece in the retinue of King Otto. The latter produced two large paintings recording the welcome given to the King at Nafplio and Athens, along with numerous others inspired by the Greek War of Independence. Vryzakis also became acquainted with the work of many other artists, who portrayed the subject and studied their portraits of famous liberation fighters with their inherent evocations of local dress, weaponry and everyday life.
Nurtured under such historical circumstances, Vryzakis set about capturing the events of the Greek War of Independence himself in a series of paintings, which clearly reflect his idealistic perception of his native land and the events unfolding. The artist also produced works which recorded a more human dimension on the sidelines of the great accomplishments. The Young Man's Farewell belongs to this latter category.
In conclusion, The Young Man's Farewell stands out for its impeccable artistic execution, its richness of colour, its superb depiction of the fascinating town dresses of the women, its romantic air and extraordinary treatment of the landscape. The allegorical element makes The Young Man's Farewell even more captivating. Indeed, this painting marks a defining moment and highpoint in the oeuvre of Theodoros Vryzakis."
We are grateful to Dr Nelly Missirli for providing this catalogue note and additional information for this work.
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