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A Man of Much More - Giuseppe Garibaldi

Through his adventures as a general and a freedom fighter, Giuseppe Garibaldi emerged as the first international celebrity and hero. As one of the few esteemed Italian heroes today, Garibaldi is “the only one who is loved as well as admired”. [1] Born in 1807 in Nice, France, Giuseppe Garibaldi was drawn into radical politics and seafaring as a young man. He soon was granted his captainship and participated in various political insurrections and uprisings. Upon his exile from Piedmont, Garibaldi was able to display his courage, persistence, and audacity, by sailing and battling as a freedom fighter in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Between 1848 and 1867, he fought numerous campaigns throughout Italy with inferior odds to the opposing French, Neapolitan, and Austrian forces for the coalition of his homeland. With his leadership and perseverance to liberate all men, Garibaldi was able to unify Italy in a final campaign in France against the Prussians, bringing Rome back under control of the Italian government. Garibaldi, through creating his image as a hero and celebrity, acquired a mythical status that is questioned by historians today.

Historians try to extrapolate every aspect of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s honored character and life.

They seek to find what factors provided his worldwide reverence and notoriety. Scholars such as Alfonso Scirocco and Lucy Riall employ the idea that truth and reality must be extracted from the myths embedded in the heroic image of Garibaldi. [2] In reality, noted by Paul Vallely, the materialization of media and propaganda by himself and the radical leader, Giuseppe Mazzini, served as the key factor in Garibaldi’s progression to public idolization both during and post-life.

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[3] Self-sacrifice and self-achievement are qualities of heroes, while propaganda and media are devices that institute fame and idolization.

With the self-conscious manipulation of the press and media with help of his mentor, Giuseppe Mazzini, and determination to sacrifice to achieve goals for both himself and his country, Giuseppe Garibaldi was able to create an image as a hero, celebrity, and the “heart-throb of modern Europe”. [4] What many historians falsely accuse today, is the notion that Garibaldi was a renowned hero, whose fame was unwillingly brought upon himself due to his notable excursions as a political and military leader. This fictitious statement declares no external sources factored into the construction of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s fame, notoriety, and mythic image.

In opposition to this superficial declaration, historians such as Lucy Riall and Paul Vallely pronounce that Garibaldi’s recognition and prominence as a hero was acquired through a series of self-fashioning decisions that promoted himself as a political idol to the people of Italy, and even Europe in the broader spectrum of political interest. [5] Garibaldi’s fame was acquired through a combination of factors resulting from the intentional, political strategy planned by nationalist, radical and political leader, Giuseppe Mazzini.

Mazzini sought to foster radical republican views through the use of one, living, breathing, iconic hero. The emergence of new technologies, principally the electric telegraph and the cheaper printing machines, sparked what was called the information revolution, which was “expressed in the proliferation of newspapers and a popular press”. [6] This revolution was accompanied by the growth of literate masses as well as a generation of a new political culture with the public partaking in more “traditional forms of mass political expression”. 7] Using the new printed media and propaganda, Mazzini and his publicists (Mazzinian journalists) set out to endorse Garibaldi as a romantic, radical hero.

In one of many attempts to promote and uphold Garibaldi’s developing image as a hero, Mazzini published two articles describing Garibaldi and his Italian Legion in Uruguay to London paper, the Apostulato Populare. The paper proclaimed, “[W]e name him [Garibaldi] with pride to our brothers… because we are sure that he considers his career in South America to be merely the apprenticeship for the Italian war which one day will call him back to Europe”. 8] Glorifying his expeditions and rebellions in Uruguay, Mazzini set out to show to the public of Italy and Europe that Garibaldi was a leader and a liberator, who fought for the freedom of all men.

As a continuation of his relentless promotion of Garibaldi, in January 1846, Mazzini wrote a letter to the London Times admiring the patriotism and courage of the Italian Legion. In the summer of the same year, a French translation was published as a propaganda pamphlet, which would circulate hrough continental Europe encouraging the “good people who have strong feelings of charity towards their fatherland”. [9] With encouragement of Mazzini, Filippo de Boni, a Swiss radical, published a long article in his monthly newspaper, Cosi la penso, exaggerating the lack of public support and interest regarding the sacrifices made by Garibaldi and the Italian Legion in Montevideo, but “exalting Garibaldi as ‘a man resolute in his generosity, a man of courage and intelligence, capable of great deeds, and for this freely elected by the legionaries as their colonel’ ”. 10] In another effort to advocate the emerging radical politician, Giuseppe Mazzini commissioned the first portrait of Garibaldi that was published in Il Mondo Illustrato, in 1848 before his arrival in Italy in June 1848.

This lithograph, that was taken and circulated to raise money for nationalistic causes, “depicts Garibaldi as a romantic, exotic figure, half turned towards the viewer”. [11] This spread his romantic image as a fighter – full beard and long, flowing hair, hands rested on a sabre, aesthetic eyes – and a leader. 12] This lithograph, in effect, led to the mass production of engraved portraits of Garibaldi to circulate through revolutionary (Northern) Italy. Upon his return in spring of 1848, Garibaldi was already a distinguished character, celebrated for his victories perpetuating Italian honor and “political freedom in foreign lands”. [13]

Thanks to Mazzini’s efforts with the media and press, Garibaldi had become identified with courage, liberality, and ethical righteousness – “virtues exalted as inherent elements of italianita”. 14] Garibaldi had to both look and act the part of a hero, celebrity, and the symbol of Italy as one nation. He acted as a “media-savvy politician” and often basked in the attention given to him by journalists and reporters. [15] His image, notably his appearance, appealed to the reading public in his portraits and changed according to his mental and emotional states in life. Shortly before the departure of his voyage to South America, a British naval officer accurately portrayed his appearance: … firm well-built frame which sat his horse like a centaur.

He wore his hair and beard long; they were then of a dark brown colour, with a reddish tint in the latter. His countenance was remarkable for its serenity, and the lips pressed close together denoted a strong will, whilst his eyes were steadfast and piercing in their gaze. In stature he was of medium height, and was altogether the beau ideal of a chief of irregular troops. [16] This depiction of Garibaldi “in the full vigour of his manhood”, displays his representation as a leader, both strong and self-assured.

Others, upon Garibaldi’s return to Italy during the revolutions of 1848-49 depicted him as a “represent[ation] of radicalism and rebellion, and his roughly physical, distinctly sexual, appeal could scarcely have differed more from prevailing aristocratic conventions of political portraiture”. [18] In a daguerreotype (type of photograph) taken by Marcus Root in 1851, Garibaldi is portrayed in a strikingly different manner than his previous romantic, freedom-fighting image. No trace of his red blouse, flowing hair, and zealous expression is present.

He strikes a solemn, mannerly pose, with the nature of a rising sun in the background. His good looks are apparent, but he is groomed, wearing a “dark double-breasted coat and neatly tied cavat, with tidy and well trimmed hair and beard”. [19] The tranquil yet downhearted stare in his eyes shows viewers his emotional state of reverence and the change of persona that had occurred. Garibaldi’s exile to America marks the point of leaving his image as a bandit and freedom fighter.

This new radically changed guise while in New York, remarks a heavy notion of respectability, in opposition to the “the youthful romantic, the exotic and picturesque rebel who had fought on the hills above Rome in 1849”. [20] This deep feeling of somberness was due to the death of his Uruguayan wife; his companion through his wild escapades as a freedom fighter. In a portrait of Garibaldi, artist, Gustave Dore, set out to show the compromise between “Garibaldi’s romantic past and more conventional present”. 21] Placed in a rocky scenery, Garibaldi is shown in the portrait with a cloak over top his generals uniform; this idea stresses his new gentlemanly features acquired in New York due to his mannerly Piedmontese uniform, but also emphasizes Garibaldi’s romantic past – the rocky peak in the background, with Garibaldi at the top bearing his cloak and long hair. Garibaldi did not simply appear drastically different to appeal to the radical public of Europe.

He appealed to “Italy’s famous past, to religion, martyrdom and betrayal, to military violence and hatred of the foreigner, and to family, sex and romantic love”. [22] Along with his astounding military accomplishments, Garibaldi was able to gain the love and support of the people through his constant modification of his own image. Self-consciously, Garibaldi constructed himself into a “global brand” and “the heart throb of metropolitan Europe”. [23] Continuing his role as a self-fashioning, nationalist hero, Garibaldi intended to attain worldwide reverence subsequent to his glorious life.

Upon his death in 1882, The Times (London), according to Riall, expressed the shock at the loss of a man who had “fascinated two hemispheres for thirty years”. [24] This fascination with Garibaldi, the idea of popularity and intense idolization, was acknowledged more after his death than during his lifetime. His use of media to create a strong self image, his personal skills and physical attraction, and his spectacular military victories all contributed to the realization, which occurred after his death, that he was the true hero and sword in the Risorgimento and unification of Italy.

Garibaldi’s memoirs and autobiographical novel, I Mille, were prolongations to his endeavors of promoting his own image. In conclusion to his long life of upheaval and radical political affairs, Giuseppe Garibaldi intended to allege himself as the symbol of the Risorgimento movement and the resurrection of Italy, to which he dedicated his very own existence. The funeral processions and ceremonies of Garibaldi occurred in many major cities of Italy; all elaborate celebrations of his greatness and contribution to Italy’s unification.

In Rome, perhaps the most ornate commemorations occurred. A color lithograph was printed depicting the transport of Garibaldi’s bust to the Campidoglio in Rome. In the print, a marvelous parade follows the bust of Garibaldi’s head, which is being crowned with a laurel wreath by a statue of liberty placed beside the giant head. The enormous statues are drawn in a carriage by eight white horses and carved into the side of the carriage were portrayals of Garibaldi’s triumphant arrivals into Naples, Palermo, and Rome. [25] Riall seeks to xpose Garibaldi’s post-life reverence and attempt to signify himself as the ‘Sword’ of Italy’s unification. In conclusion, Garibaldi was indeed a self-fashioning hero and political actor who strove at self-promotion due to the awareness that a new age of “ubiquitous” fame and ceasing belief in “Great Men” was present. [26]

Undoubtedly, Garibaldi’s political innovation and military successes played value roles in obtaining iconic public appeal for 40 years while shifting from a revolutionary standpoint of nationalism to an official principle of an established regime, the Risorgimento. 27] Predominantly, his interaction with the press and media and his “natural possession” and “dramatic timing”, applied his fame and fortune: … he knew how to strike a pose, he knew how to use his voice, his body and his smile, he knew when to be brave and when to be humble, and he knew when to abandon the stage and distance himself from the public furore created by his presence.

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A Man of Much More - Giuseppe Garibaldi. (2016, Sep 10). Retrieved from

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