POUSSIN, Nicolas
(b. 1594, Les Andelys, d. 1665, Roma)

Tancred and Erminia

c. 1634
Oil on canvas, 75 x 100 cm
Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham

In Tancred and Erminia, the daughter of the Saracen king, Erminia, hastens to the aid of the knight Tancred when she finds him wounded after defeating a giant in single combat. Although strictly speaking one of his enemies, she kneels determinedly beside him and cuts off her beautiful tresses in order to stanch his bleeding.

Poussin here juxtaposes arms and love, in order to demonstrate the power of love even over an enemy: on the right lie the gleaming pieces of magnificent armour that have been removed from Tancred, who has suffered a serious wound in battle. At the same time, Erminia raises his sword to cut off her hair, so as to bind up his wounds with her tresses.