This valuable painting almost seems to be a chronicle episode from the artist’s life. Lombard by birth and education, De Albertis took an active part in the Five Days of Milan, which caught him during his training at the Brera Academy. A fervent patriot from the beginning, De Albertis left to fight the First War of Independence in 1848. After returning to his hometown, he devoted himself entirely to producing canvases dedicated to historical paintings of high civil and moral commitment. In 1859 he re-enlisted in the Cacciatori delle Alpi, but this did not prevent him from taking part in the Expedition of the Thousand alongside Garibaldi the following year. With the spirit of a chronicler, he continued to document the daring independence battles, but after the unification of Italy, he devoted himself – albeit for a short time, as he participated in the Third War of Independence in 1866 – to lighter, almost popular themes. This canvas is brilliantly realistic, as are the brilliant colours used by the artist to depict the soldiers caught in the ambush by surprise. Much of Meissonier’s narration of the war is in this picture: the setting is vivid, the artist’s gaze on the scene is extremely attentive, eager to capture every detail of the moment. In such a work, we understand how De Albertis was considered Fattori’s true rival in the narration of Risorgimento’s battles. Today we remember Sebastiano De Albertis as a great artist and a great patriot: he was made a Knight of the Italian Crown and an honorary professor at the Brera Academy, and in 1884 he was one of the leading promoters of the foundation of the Risorgimento Museum in Milan.
Bibl.: E. Ragazzi, Da Fattori a Nomellini. Arte e Risorgimento, De Ferrari & Devega, Genova 2005, Nr. 32, S. 114.