Kunsthaus Zurich Acquires Giovanni Lanfranco’s “Rinaldo’s Farewell to Armida” at TEFAF
At the recently concluded TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) in Maastricht, the Netherlands, Paris-based Galerie Canesso sold Rinaldo’s Farewell to Armida by Giovanni Lanfranco to the Kunsthaus Zurich, according to the Art Tribune. The work has been on the market for a couple of years and was seen at Didier Aaron in New York in May 2012.
According to Canesso:
The painting illustrates an episode from canto XVI (stanzas 60-63) of [Torquato] Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. The artist’s focus is on the defining moment of pathos as Rinaldo takes his final leave of Armida, with the hero caught between guilt for abandoning the unconscious Armida and the pressing need to follow his destiny, placed in the hands of Fortune, who is depicted holding the tiller. Lanfranco has imagined the scene described in stanza 62: “What should he do? Leave on the naked sand / This woful lady, half alive, half dead? / Kindness forbade, pity did that withstand; / But hard constraint, alas! Did thence him lead. / Away he went, the west wind blew from land / ‘Mongst the rich tresses of their pilot’s head'” (Fair-fax translation, 1600). The narrative spreads across the foreground like a frieze, while the background is filled entirely by a landscape that also faithfully reflects the description by Tasso. Armida’s palace, “proudly built […] on top of yonder mountain’s height” (XV, st. 44), is further described in the next canto as “builded rich and round” (XVI, st. 1). Mellini has identified the ancient édifice that inspired this depiction as the Theatrum Marcelli reproduced in Bartolomeo Marliani’s Urbis Romae Topographia.
The artist depicts the two messengers Carlo and Ubaldo, whom the Christians have sent to Rinaldo to recall him to martial duty. Having arrived by sea, they ready themselves to set sail again, accompanied by the champion “of Christ’s true faith” (xv, st. 44) and thus return victorious in their mission. Several pentimenti in this figure group are visible to the naked eye, which are confirmed by X-radiography. The placement of the two warriors originally had two alternatives: another head can be perceived behind and above the head of the messenger with a shield, and the silhouette of another figure is clearly visible between Rinaldo and the seated warrior – perhaps that of Rinaldo himself – which the artist subsequently moved to the left – or perhaps the right – and then shifted forward. A few revised details, such as the thumb of Rinaldo’s right hand or the left knee of the seated messenger, display occasional tentative moments during the execution of the painting. Lanfranco constructs the narrative with painstaking detail, and the immense landscape, empty and desolate, bristling with menacing peaks, lends even greater poignancy to the abandoned Armida, seemingly shipwrecked in the foreground. Only the warm tones of the drapery sing out here, run through with shot silk effects and animated by the marine breeze. X-radiography shows that the figure of Armida was painted without any revision, since not one pentimento betrays the slightest hesitation of the painter’s hand.
The canvas was painted with a light touch and its surface occasionally reveals the brown preparation, especially in the area around the rocks. Elsewhere, numerous passages of the artist’s own overpainting are visible, allowing us to assess the relatively thin paint layer. Examples of this include the light strip of earth in the foreground that covers a little of Armida’s yellow drapery, Rinaldo’s hand over the shield, and the mast and sail painted over the intense blue of the sea and sky.