Rinaldo, the central character in the Jerusalem Delivered byTorquatto Tasso
(1544‒1595), and the fiercest of the Crusaders, puts the liberation of
Jerusalem at risk by his disappearance. Pagan sorceress Armida, the daughter of
king Hidraot of Damascus, is sent to kill the sleeping warrior but instead she
falls in love with him. She transfers him to Happy Islands where she
creates an enchanted garden with a palace to detain the lovesick prisoner
within. Rinaldo forgets his military mission and Christian duty. Gofredo –
commander of the crusade – sends out Ubaldo and Carlo, Rinaldo's comrades, to
bring him back. With Rinaldo's reengagement the Crusaders take Jerusalem.
Although pirated editions occurred in Venice before
the epic was officially printed, pictorial (as well as musical) renditions are
not to be found in the tradition of the Serenissimafor almost a century. Lazzarini's painting was completed in the period after
1683, when Venice attempted to re-animate the Holly League, an alliance that
won the battle at Lepant against the Ottomans in 1571. The subject of Rinaldo
and Armida episode surfaced first in the music theatre, where it stuck to
Tasso's moral message, while Lazzarini recast it into an explicitly erotic
scene. Since Lazzarini's compositions lend evidence of his familiarity with the
Bolognese classicism, the painter must have been aware of the Annibale Carracci
painting of 1601. He kept Carracci's feminisation of the male body by the soft
modelling of Rinaldo's back and by long blond curls. However, his Rinaldo is
very agitated in conversation with his mistress in contrast to Carracci's.
While the 20th stanza of Canto XVI, in which Rinaldo
holds up a mirror to his mistress, usually offers the basis for the
iconographic formation, Lazzarini used the 21st stanza. Armida admires herself
in the mirror while Rinaldo tries to convince her that her image in his heart
reflected in his eyes is much more beautiful. Lazzarini slid the subject from
its moral-didactic hinges and interpreted it in the tradition of Venetian
erotic subjects of”loves of gods”. The composition of the male body is based on
the figura serpentinata well known
from Titian's paintings of Venus and a musician, but above all from his Venus and Adonis, ca 1553, of the Prado.
Lazzarini gave up the nonintersecting gazes emphasized
in the epic. The gazes of Rinaldo and Armida converge in the looking glass.
Ubaldo's gaze from behind the rosebush seems directed into the mirror as well.
Since the two warriors are the identification figures that tell the viewer how
to read the visual narration, they carry the viewer's gaze. Lazzarini's amorinois busy with the viewer's participation, too. Looking at the mirror, he follows
Rinaldo's pointing gesture while pointing at the viewer with his right hand.
The painter thematised looking by concentration of gazes directed to the same
spot: the looking glass reflects what the viewer sees from his privileged
position – the undressed Armida. The visualisation of the erotic scene
recreates gazing through a peephole at the nose powdering Venuses of the
Venetian high Renaissance. That kind of image was intended for the patron's
most private quarters that privilege very different and particular imperatives
not the ideological orthodoxy, brought to life in Venetian painting again in
the mid-18th century by Lazzarini's pupil Giambattista Tiepolo.
1 March–4 April 2018
National Gallery of Slovenia