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Jacopo Amigoni (1682-1752)Clorinda Rescuing Olindo and Sophronia
Jacopo AMIGONI (Venice 1682 – 1752 Madrid) Clorinda Rescuing Olindo and Sophronia circa 1740 In a period German frame oil on canvas 49 ½ x 61 ½ inches; 125.7 x 156.2 cm Provenance: -L'Art Ancien, Lugano, Switzerland, circa 1921 (as featured in that firm's catalogue no. 1, in which the painting was priced at 4,000 Swiss francs); -Collection of Pat Newbern, Dallas, acquired circa 1960s; -Private Collection, USA Only recently rediscovered, this rich and exotic representation of Sophronia and Olindo was painted around 1740 by Jacopo Amigoni. Unseen since its sale in 1960 (see Provenance), when the painting recently reappeared, Dottoressa Annalisa Scarpa, author of the artist’s catalogue raisonné, endorsed the attribution and date, observing stylistic affinities between this painting and Amigoni’s Abrocome and Anzia in the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart (inv. no. 3351 - A. Scarpa Sonino, Jacopo Amigoni, Soncino 1994, pp. 132-135, cat. no. 34, reproduced p. 133). The present canvas corresponds with paintings executed by Amigoni in the period following his return to Venice from Great Britain in 1739. The artist remained in Italy until 1747 when he relocated to Spain at the invitation of King Ferdinand VI, holding the position of First Court Painter. The present painting represents the dramatic rescue of the two lovers, Sophronia and Olindo, as recounted in Torquato Tasso's epic poem (quoted below), Gerusalemme liberata, which he completed in 1575. The text was first published in Parma, 1581, and a first, illustrated edition appeared in 1590. Tasso's Renaissance classic was set during the First Crusade, which ended with Godfrey de Bouillon's heroic liberation of Jerusalem in 1099. It included fanciful accounts of trysts and other escapades, including the tale of the two lovers, which is recounted in Book 2, cantos XXXII-XLV. Gerusalemme liberata enjoyed a huge success throughout Europe and was celebrated in music and art for the next two centuries: “The lovers standing in this doleful wise, A warrior bold unwares approached near, In uncouth arms yclad and strange disguise, From countries far, but new arrived there, A savage tigress on her helmet lies, The famous badge Clorinda used to bear; That wonts in every warlike stowre to win, By which bright sign well known was that fair inn” T. Tasso, Gerusalemme liberata, (E. Fairfax translation, London 1600), H. Morley (ed.), New York 1901, book II, canto XXXVIII. The Christian Sophronia was condemned to death by the king of the Saracens for her supposed involvement in a plot to desecrate an Islamic image. The means of her execution was burning at the stake, and her lover, Olindo, chose to join her in death. Just as the event was about to take place, Clorinda, a female mercenary from Persia, appeared on a white stallion in full armour. She took immediate pity on the young couple and proposed to the king that, in return for their lives, she would herself continue the war against the Crusaders. The author of this unpublished painting, the Venetian master Jacopo Amigoni, represents Tasso's tale in the foreground plane with all of its principals highlighted by areas of white pigment. At the left, the Saracen king, seen in profile and robed in white satin with a lavish, pale green and rose, embroidered cloak, faces the scene of the prepared-for execution. With his extended left hand he bids the Saracen henchmen, half naked and with their heads shaved-visible at the centre, splitting wood and preparing to ignite the fire-to halt the immolation and so spare Sophronia and Olindo. Their rescuer, the dashing Clorinda, issues the same command, extending her left arm diagonally in the direction of the crouching figures about to light the pyre. The role of two of the more prominent foreground figures in Amigoni's narrative, however, appears anomalous. That at the centre right, a young man in a red cap holding a spear, may have been included as a compositional device to bracket the scene at the right. His costume seems generically Western and he is the largest scale figure in the entire group. (Does he represent, for instance, Amigoni's patron?) The other unusually-clad person is the figure to the right of the Saracen king; what nationality is he, dressed in a fur cap, and what is the meaning of the hammer in his right hand? Stylistic comparisons with paintings dating from the time period 1739 to early 1747, that is after Amigoni returned to Venice from Great Britain and before he relocated to Spain as first court painter to King Ferdinand VI, would indicate that he executed the present picture during this same time. The type of bearded elderly man with a hooked nose seen here in the background at the left, as well as in the figure wearing a fur hat to the right of the Saracen king, also appears in two Old Testament paintings by Amigoni executed c. 1740: Sacrifice of Isaac and Lot and His Daughters (Streit Foundation, Berlin; on loan to the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). These and another pair, Bathsheba and Susannah and the Elders (likewise in Berlin), later belonged to the Venice-based, Prussian merchant, Sigismund Streit (1687-1775), who had his portrait painted by Amigoni four times.
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