Staring melancholically back at us is a young Giuseppe Hyzler in his 20s. This Maltese artist painted his own half-length portrait while he was still studying in Rome. The prominently rising Dome of St Peter’s in the far distance not only establishes the location of the Eternal City, but it metaphorically also stands for the birthplace of Hyzler’s Nazarene doctrine in art, after having been spellbound by its founder, the German artist Johann Friedrich Overbeck.
Sporting long hair, an askew black beret and a white-collared black robe, Hyzler represents himself in true austere Nazarene fashion just like his mentor and comrade, Overbeck. His is a self-righteous mien reflecting his zeal to adopt the Nazarene idea of retrospectively seeking inspiration from early 15th-century Italian and German religious art in order to restore purity back into art after having been marred by what he believed to be the vulgar and decadent extravagance of the late Mannerist, Baroque and Rococo styles.