Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) is an early example of an international celebrity. He was a military leader whose considerable personal following, including a thousand volunteers, won Sicily and Naples for the Risorgimento, the movement seeking to reunify Italy in the mid-nineteenth century.
Garibaldi was viewed by many across the world as a romantic figure, and he had a very broad appeal in England. Queen Victoria was less impressed, seeing him as a revolutionary. She was nervous of the vast crowds that came out onto the streets to cheer him.
In April 1864 Garibaldi visited the Isle of Wight and stayed with the Seely family at Brooke House. Two thousand people welcomed him in Cowes, and there were large crowds in Newport too, where Garibaldi appeared on the balcony of the Guildhall. While on the Island, Garibaldi visited Tennyson at Farringford, his home in Freshwater, and met the pioneer of modern photography, Julia Margaret Cameron. Emily Tennyson described him as “a most striking figure”, and was grateful that she could give her guest a break from the constant attention that he received elsewhere.
This portrait was painted by Attilio Baccani, an Italian with studios in London. It is believed to have been commissioned by his host Charles Seely, and was discovered on the estate in 1958.
In 2009 this painting was moved to the Museum of Island History in Newport’s Guildhall, where Garibaldi appeared to the crowds on his 1864 visit.
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