Online discussion series KNIR: Rome from Afar – The Risorgimento through Dutch Eyes

26 zat
26 juni 2021

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Roma Capitale. On 3 February 1871 the Eternal City became the capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy, being the final chapter of the so-called Risorgimento, the strive for Italian unification. This important moment in the history of Rome forms the theme of the second edition of Rome from Afar: The Risorgimento through Dutch Eyes. This online event is organised by the Ambassadors of the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome and will take place on Saturday 26 June between 16:00 and 17:30 via Zoom. Together with our guest speakers we will discover how the Italian unification was perceived and reflected upon in art, press and diaries.

Moderator: Dr Maria Bonaria Urban (KNIR/University of Amsterdam)

Speakers: Prof. dr. Henk te Velde (Leiden University), Dr. Asker Pelgrom (University of Groningen), Koen de Groot MA

Saturday 26 June between 16:00 and 17:30

Online (Zoom), registration free

More info & registration:


Prof. dr. Henk te Velde (Leiden University) – The Risorgimento as a Watershed in Dutch Politics: Opinions in Politics and the Press

At first glance, the Dutch elite was more concerned with the unification of Germany than of Italy. The new German Empire could pose a direct threat to Dutch independence, Italy was at a safe distance. Nevertheless, the Risorgimento was closely followed, and opinions were very different. In fact, opinions on the Risorgimento showed new divisions and ruptures in Dutch politics. Dutch liberals and Catholics had worked together closely, but their views on the Risorgimento showed that their alliance was over.

Dr. Asker Pelgrom (University of Groningen) – Brushes and Bayonets: Dutch Artists and the Roman Revolution (1846-1849)

A common complaint among Italian patriots during the Risorgimento was the lack of interest by foreign writers and artists for the concerns of modern Italy, supposedly considered a ‘terre des morts’. But was this really the case? The experience of some Dutch artists in Rome (1840-1870) suggests otherwise. Behind the seemingly ‘detached’ nature of their Italianate art, some of them demonstrated a strong social and political engagement and turned into fervent advocates of the Italian case. The painter brothers Jan Hendrik and Jan Philip Koelman are a case in point, as will be shown in this talk. Their example, however, did not stand alone: to many foreign artists and critics, Dutch and others, both Italy’s heritage and its modern society, culture and politics proved highly relevant, not in the least because they were intertwined with their views on their own national past, art, religion and politics. 

Koen de Groot MA – A Veteran of Three Wars: Ignace Wils, the Pontifical Zouaves and the (Anti-)Risorgimento

Ignace Wils (1849-1873) was only sixteen years old when he left his Dutch hometown Ravenstein to join the forces of the pontifical zouaves, the international volunteer army of pope Pius IX. The zouaves had taken up arms to defend the pope against Italian nationalist expansionism in the final stages of Risorgimento. During his stay in Rome, Wils, however, found out that the anti-Risorgimento fight of the zouaves was part of a wider movement of anti-revolutionary struggles across Europe. In his presentation, Koen de Groot will talk about the motives of Wils to join the pontifical zouaves, Wils’ stay in Rome, and how Wils continued his pro-papal, anti-revolutionary fight in France and Spain after the Capture of Rome in 1870.

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