INGRES, Jean-Auguste-Dominique
(b. 1780, Montauban, d. 1867, Paris)

Roger Freeing Angelica

Oil on canvas, 147 x 190 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Angelica is the daughter of a king of Cathay in Orlando Furioso, by the Italian poet Ariosto (1474-1533), a romantic epic poem about the conflict between Christians and Saracens at the time of Charlemagne. Angelica was loved by several knights, Christian and pagan, among them the Christian hero Orlando (Roland). He was maddened (furioso) with grief and jealousy because she became the lover of, and eventually married, the Moor Modero. Roger (Ruggiero) freeing Angelica is a theme very like Perseus and Andromeda. Angelica chained to a rock by the seashore is about to be attacked by a sea-monster, the orc. Roger, one of the pagan champions, arrives riding on a hippogriff (a monster, the creation of the poets of the late middle ages). He dazzles the monster with his magic shield, and places a magic ring on Angelica's finger to protect her. He undoes her bonds and they ride off together.

Ingres developed a highly sensitive aestheticism, particularly in depicting the beautiful naked body. He excelled his teachers in this, and it was here that he sought an ideal of form that goes to the limits of what can be done in painting. It is hard to find an equal anywhere in the history of art turned to us by The Grand Odalisque or the body of the young girl in Roger Freeing Angelica, modeled in soft lines.

The position of the young Angelica, with her head tilted back, is highly exaggerated by modern standards, but the exposed and defenseless neck and the eyes cast up to suggest that she has fainted are intended to signalise pure feminine submission. In order to portray this unconditional surrender to her rescuer, Ingres has almost made her look as if she has a goitre. But this calculated submission to the aesthetic of the nude makes it no less erotic precisely because the very evidence of a weak spot in her beauty makes her seem less remote from the viewer.