The Beating Heart of Italy – Giuseppe Mazzini

Day 46 of Colourisation Project – June 22

Born into a middle class family in Genoa, on this day in 1805, Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian politician, journalist and activist for Italian independence and a unified democratic Republic of Italy.

A bright student, he was admitted to University at age 14, graduating in law at the age of 21. Nicknamed The Beating Heart of Italy, he devoted his whole life to achieving liberty and unity for Italy. He was imprisoned several times and sent into exile in Switzerland, France and London. All the while fighting and inspiring young Italians to do the same, through various publications and through the formation of a secret society, La Giovine Italia (Young Italy). His commitment and efforts to the cause helped bring about an independent and unified Italy in place of the several separate states, many of which were dominated by foreign powers that existed up until the 19th century.

Giuseppe Mazzini

        Photographer Unknown – circa 1860 –  Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Mazzini has also been referred to as ‘the soul of Italy’. He had a magnetic personality which drew many people to him. But at the end of his life, Mazzini considered himself to have failed in his quest. Mazzini returned to Italy during the wars of 1859 and 1860 but received little joy or satisfaction in seeing the establishment of a unified North Italian kingdom in 1861. He never fully accepted the monarchical united Italy and continued to advocate for a democratic republican state. In 1865, Mazzini was elected to the Turin Italian parliament but he declined to take his seat as he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy.

The history of the rise of nationalism and the spirit of the Risorgimento (resurgence) is a complicated web of insurrections, mutinies and uprisings, led by several key figures who were all working for the same ultimate end but sometimes at cross-purposes. Nonetheless, Mazzini was credited with having played a significant and influential role in the Risorgimento. His political activities and ideology spread beyond Italy and inspired fledgling nationalist and democratic reform movements throughout the world.

About a century before the European Union began to take shape in the 1950s, Mazzini had lobbied and fought for of a “United States of Europe.” For Mazzini, European unification had always been a logical extension of Italian unification.

Giuseppe Mazzini died of pleurisy in Pisa on March 10th in 1872 at the age of 66. His death elicited a national public display of grief. A public funeral was conducted in Pisa and Mazzini’s remains were returned to his home city of Genoa for burial.


Note: When I set about colouring today’s photo I had originally decided on a dark blue or navy colour for Mazzini’s Jacket. However in the course of my research for this post, I discovered a curious fact: ever since his early university days Mazzini had sworn to always dress only in black until a unified democratic republic of Italy had been achieved…almost as though he were in mourning for his country. So I had to go back in and repaint his jacket.


“Insurrection by means of guerrilla bands is the true method of warfare for all nations desirous of emancipating themselves from a foreign yoke. It is invincible, indestructible.” Giuseppe Mazzini

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, History, Italy, Photography, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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