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Rinaldo turning in Shame from the Magic Shield
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
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This painting shows Rinaldo, a Christian knight who has been enchanted by the Muslim sorceress Armida. Looking at his own reflection in a magic shield given to him by one of his companions breaks the spell, and they help Rinaldo escape.

This scene is taken from an episode in Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, a romantic poem about the First Crusade, a Christian military campaign to recapture Jerusalem from Islamic rule. Rinaldo’s costume and armour are inspired by the classical world: the scallop shell at his waist was, in antiquity, the attribute of Venus, the goddess of love.

Painted during the 1740s at the height of Tiepolo’s career, this is one of four panels that once decorated the Cornaro family’s villa in northern Italy. The other panels, also in the National Gallery’s collection, depict unidentifiable figures that were probably inspired by Tasso’s poem.

Key facts
Artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Artist dates 1696 - 1770
Full title Rinaldo turning in Shame from the Magic Shield
Group Four Decorative Scenes
Date made about 1740-6
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 161.3 x 53.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1960
Inventory number NG6303
Location in Gallery Room 39
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Four Decorative Scenes

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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo painted these four narrow panels during the 1740s for a Venetian palazzo near Merlengo, northern Italy. At this time Tiepolo was enjoying growing fame across Italy, and receiving prestigious commissions for monumental ceiling paintings and wall decorations in grand palaces.

The paintings were inspired by Torquato Tasso’s popular sixteenth-century poem Jerusalem Delivered, which was set during the First Crusade, a Christian military campaign to recapture Jerusalem from Islamic rule. However, Rinaldo turning in Shame from the Magic Shield is the only panel in the series with an identifiable story: the ill-fated love of the Muslim sorceress Armida and Rinaldo, a Christian knight.

The other panels – Seated Man, Woman with Jar and Boy, Two Men in Oriental Costume and Two Orientals seated under a Tree – include objects and types of people found in Tasso’s poem. In all of the paintings, Tiepolo’s pale pastel tones and soft brushstrokes create a dazzling atmosphere.

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