RICHARD, Fleury-François
(b. 1777, Lyon, d. 1852, Ecully)

Montaigne and Tasso

Oil on canvas, 130 x 100 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon

Torquato Tasso (1544-1595) was once wildly popular, quoted by philosophers, emulated by poets, and a source of inspiration to painters and composers. Even his sad and tormented life was an obsession for the romantics, inspiring a play by Goethe, a poem by Byron, a painting by Delacroix and a symphonic study by Liszt.

He suffered from mental instability throughout his career, obsessing over his poems. It was a favourite subject for the romantics - the artist, a victim of his own prolific imagination, hounded into insanity. Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592), the sober, 16th-century philosopher, apparently met Tasso in an asylum near Ferrara in 1581, according to a fascinating passage from one of his essays. Fleury-François Richard took his inspiration from this essay.