Garibaldi with dying Anita, oil on canvas by Lucca artist Luigi De Servi (Lucca 1863-1945)
The painting shows Garibaldi holding the dying Anita in his arms near the Comacchio Marshes, a dramatic image filled with human compassion.
Anita, whose full name was Ana Maria De Jesus Ribeiro (1821 – 1849), was born in Santa Caterina in Brazil, the daughter of poor peasants. At the age of only 14 she married a shoemaker, Durante de Aguiera: a marriage destined to be short-lived. Ana, known as Anita, met Garibaldi she was 18 and he was already over 30 and engaged in leading the farroupilha, “ragamuffin” and republican troops in Rio Grande del Sud in the struggle for independence from the Brazilian Empire. Anita and Giuseppe married in Montevideo in 1842, and she gave birth to their children Menotti, Teresita and Ricciotti. In 1848 the mother and children followed Garibaldi to Italy. In February 1849 Anita joined her husband in Rome as the Republic’s situation became increasingly desperate and Anita was again pregnant. She left Rome on horseback together with Garibaldi and some 4,000 soldiers of the Roman Republic and attempted with him to reach Venice, the last bastion of Italian and European resistance against Austrian power. The initiative did not succeed. Anita was sick: pregnancy was compounded by the exertions of the flight and by malaria. Garibaldi and Anita, who was now exhausted, managed to reach the Comacchio Marshes with the help of a few loyal friends. Anita died in Mandriole on the evening of 4 August 1849: she was not yet 28 years old.
Luigi De Servi, an artist and portrait painter from Lucca, emigrated to Argentina at the age of 20. In his long career there, he obtained important commissions from institutions and was always sensitive to themes relating to his country’s history and the events from the Garibaldi legend. He often drew inspiration from the tragic period in 1849, when the republican and democratic illusions of Rome and Venice were dashed. The artist captured this defeat in the death of Anita in the Po delta on 4 August 1849.