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Circle of Annibale Carracci, Erminia takes Refuge with the Shepherds

Key facts
Full title Erminia takes Refuge with the Shepherds
Artist Circle of Annibale Carracci
Artist dates 1560 - 1609
Date made early 17th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 147.3 × 214.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG88
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Erminia takes Refuge with the Shepherds
Circle of Annibale Carracci

A young woman in armour, her horse tied to a tree behind her, has wandered into a kind of rustic concert. A shepherd and his family are sitting outside their cottage; the elderly father weaves baskets out of reeds and his sons hold musical instruments.

This pastoral idyll is a scene from an epic poem, Jerusalem Delivered, published in 1581 by Torquato Tasso, the greatest Italian poet of the late Renaissance. Erminia, a Muslim princess, has fallen in love with Tancred, a Christian knight, and disguised herself as a soldier in order to find him. At one point she takes refuge with a shepherd’s family and shares their bucolic life.

We are not sure who painted this picture, but it was presumably one of the many artists trained in the academy run by the Carracci family in Bologna. It has recently been attributed to the Bolognese painter Franceso Albani, who may have painted it while he was in Rome in 1609–10.

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