One hundred and four

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Rinaldo and Armida

c1625 by Nicolas Poussin
Dulwich Picture Gallery

Poussin takes his subjects from an epic poem by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso, which tells tales of the Christian crusades. Armida, an enemy of the Christian army and witch, enters the camp in order to kill Rinaldo, the Christian’s greatest knight. But of course she falls in love with him, and they become infatuated with one another on the magical island she takes him to. Poussin’s characteristic colouration is perfect for this portrayal of Romantic hiding; lovers leaving others behind, seeing their world temporarily through rose-tinted glasses, or in this case golden ones. Poussin’s wonderfully warm haze has again, as in postcard eighty-five, glazed over the painting, brilliant orange burning from expansive skies glowing on milky skin. Dramatically, light is cast upon Armida’s face, her expansive bust in shadow, as she tenderly, her face full of concern, draws curls from Rinaldo’s face. The emotion Poussin draws from the characters is clear, showing Armida’s softening countenance as she falls in love; Rinaldo laying down, his weapons cast aside, as he succumbs. Yet for all their supposed passion the picture is touchingly quiet, both faces have a serenity about them. Perhaps the moment Poussin decides to portray is in fact the striking of love’s arrow itself. She has come to kill him, dagger in hand, while he sleeps but is stopped, transfixed by his beauty; he in turn is, as of yet, blissfully unaware of what is about to befall him, the love that will alter his allegiance. Poussin succeeds in capturing love in his delicately precise, subtly matt, painting style.

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Filed under Seventeenth-Century

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  1. Pingback: postcardwall on London Arts Board | postcardwall

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