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

The Abduction of Rinaldo

Oil on canvas, 116 x 146 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

The theme is taken from Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata ("Jerusalem Delivered"), which describes a battle between the Christians and the Muslims during the siege of Jerusalem at the end of the First Crusade. Poussin selects an episode in which the Christian knight Rinaldo has landed on the island of the seductive enchantress Armida; having bewitched him with her singing, Armida is on the point of stabbing the sleeping crusader with a dagger when love stays her hand, and she decides instead to carry him off to her enchanted palace.

Poussin portrays the moment in which the still sleeping Rinaldo, defenceless, stripped of his weapons and bound with garlands of flowers, is abducted by Armida with the aid of a band of putti, while the companions who had first persuaded the knight to land on the island wait beside a column in the background.

George Frideric Handel composed an opera using a libretto written by Giacomo Rossi, based on episodes of Gerusalemme liberata.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 8 minutes):
George Frideric Handel: Two arias, Rinaldo, Acts II and III