(b. 1798, Charenton-Saint-Maurice, d. 1863, Paris)

Tasso in the Madhouse

Oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm
Private collection

Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), Italian poet, one of the foremost writers and a tragic figure of the Renaissance. In 1565 he joined the court of Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, where he wrote the first version of his masterpiece, Jerusalem Delivered (Ital. Gerusalemme liberata), an epic of the exploits of Godfrey of Boulogne during the First Crusade. He was frustrated by conditions at court, where he felt unappreciated by his patrons and envied by his colleagues. Psychologically unstable, he developed a persecution complex that led to a fit of violence in 1579. He was imprisoned in a convent from which he escaped. In 1579 he returned to Ferrara, but was confined in a madhouse, where he remained until 1586.

For Romantics like Delacroix, Tasso, shut up in his Ferrarese prison, was to be the epitome of the artist-hero who suffers for his art and beliefs.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.