The enchantress Armida and her bewitched lover, Rinaldo, a Christian knight, recline in a beautiful landscape, surrounded by attendant cupids. The scene shows a tender moment between the couple before Rinaldo’s comrades, whose helmets are visible behind the bush on the left, disturb their idyll and compel Rinaldo to return to fighting in the First Crusade (a Christian military campaign to recapture Jerusalem from Islamic rule).
This is an episode from Torquato Tasso’s epic tale of bewitching and love, La Gerusalemme liberate (1581), which was popular during the seventeenth century (an English translation, Jerusalem Delivered, was published in 1600). Another painting of the subject by Van Dyck (thought to be the picture now at the Baltimore Museum of Art) was acquired by King Charles I.
The enchantress Armida and her bewitched lover, Rinaldo, a Christian knight, recline in a beautiful landscape, surrounded by attendant cupids and luxury goods. The scene shows a tender moment: from his position on her lap, Rinaldo looks up adoringly at Armida, who tends to her long golden hair and glances toward an upheld mirror.
The lovers' idyll is about to be disturbed. Armida’s mirror will soon reflect two advancing intruders, whose Spanish-style helmets are just visible behind the bush on the left. These are Rinaldo’s comrades, Carlo and Ubaldo, who compel him to return to fighting in the First Crusade (a Christian military campaign to recapture Jerusalem from Islamic rule).
This is an episode from Torquato Tasso’s epic La Gerusalemme liberate (1581), which, through Edward Fairfax’s English translation (Jerusalem Delivered, 1600), was particularly popular during the early seventeenth century. The tale of bewitchment and love on a ‘Fortunate Isle’ captured the imagination of the English royal court, and a large painting of an earlier episode of the story by Anthony van Dyck (thought to be the picture now at the Baltimore Museum of Art) was acquired by King Charles I.
The present picture is a reduced grisaille copy of a painting now in the Louvre, Paris. It has been suggested that the squared-up, grey, yellow and greenish grisaille might be a preparatory study for the finished painting, but it is more likely to be a model for the subsequent engraving of it produced by Pieter de Jode (1644), which is of exactly the same dimensions. Indeed, this copy and the engraving show more of the landscape at the top and bottom of the composition than the Louvre painting, suggesting that it has at some stage been cut down.
It is most likely that this copy was made from the original painting while it was in Van Dyck’s workshop in Antwerp, or possibly from another copy soon after. It then apparently remained unused until it became the basis for the 1644 print. Several documentary references suggest that there existed another oil sketch of the subject of the story of Rinaldo and Armida, now lost.
The painting was once owned by the leading portrait painter of Regency London and fourth President of the Royal Academy of Arts, Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830).
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