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Armida Gazes on the Sleeping Rinaldo
Illustration of book 14.61–67 in Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) by Torquato Tasso (Italian, 1544–1595), Parma: 1581

Giuseppe Cades, Italian (active Rome), 1750 - 1799

Made in Rome, Italy, Europe

c. 1785

Colored chalks on laid paper

Sheet: 12 3/8 x 17 3/8 inches (31.5 x 44.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, with funds contributed by George M. Cheston, and with the Lola Downin Peck Fund and the Carl and Laura Zigrosser Collection (by exchange), 1990

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Giuseppe Cades absorbed inspiration from various members of the international coterie of artists working in Rome in the 1770s and 1780s to form a style that metamorphosed standard classical subjects into paintings and drawings of distinctive originality. This highly finished work illustrates a scene from Torquato Tasso's epic poem Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) in which the sorceress Armida, who has seduced and enslaved various heroic crusaders, has vowed to kill their liberator, the Christian knight Rinaldo. In collusion with a mysterious and beautiful nymph whose occupation is to lure youths into an enchanted sleep, Armida approaches Rinaldo, but when she gazes on him and sees how handsome he is, she is stricken with love herself.

Additional information:
  • PublicationArt in Rome in the Eighteenth Century

    The traditional identification of the subject (among English-language art historians) as an illustration of the episode from Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered in which Armida discovers the sleeping Rinaldo and prepares to abduct him on her chariot (Canto XIV, verses 65 ff.) is highly questionable. The iconography of the episode from Tasso had already been well established by famous seventeenth-century paintings (specifically the versions by Poussin, now in Moscow, and by Van Dyck, now in Los Angeles). According to this tradition the episode takes place in a natural setting beside a spring where nymphs are bathing, under the eyes of winged cupids suspended in flight above the hero; Rinadlo always wears armor and a warrior's clothing. By contrast, the event depicted by Cades seems to take place indoors, or in some unidentifiable setting, and the sleeping young man is naked, apart from the drapery and footwear. Although iconography of this drawing cannot as yet be resolved, therefore, it may be drawn from a work of literature (probably by a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century writer) or else an allegory, in the spirit of Tommaso Mindardi's later Tasso Meditating on the Figure of Beauty, in which a radiantly beautiful young woman stands before a drowning man (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome). In any case, it is most improbable that Cades would have treated a subject taken from Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered with such freedom: the tendency in the literary painting of his day, which was already anticipating Romantic history painting, was, rather, to stick faithfully to the text and render its details precisely.

    This drawing is also reminiscent of an almost contemporary work by Fuseli: the illustration of an episode form Spenser, The Fairie Queen Appearing to the Sleeping Prince Arthur, itself inspired by the picture Van Dyck's Armida Gazing at the Sleeping Rinaldo, referred to above, held in the eighteenth century in the collections of Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth Woodhouse (Yorkshire). Fuseli's work was conceived in the context of a project for one hundred paintings intended to form a "gallery" inspired by English poetry, commissioned by the dealer and publisher Macklin in 1787. The idea was for the paintings subsequently to be published as engravings; Fuseli's picture was engraved with aquatint by Tomkins in 1788.

    This present work, executed in a subdued, gentle range of colors dominated by gray, enlivened by delicate touches of yellow and blue, demonstrates remarkable technical virtuosity. A. Wintermute has rightly emphasized Cades's dependence on models by Correggio, in line with the taste prevalent in Roman circles in the 1780s. With her rounded, sensual figure, fair coloring, and delicate features, the seated woman on the right, immersed in gazing at the sleeping young man is one of the most attractive figures encountered in Cades's painting. Maria Teresa Caracciolo, from Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century (2000), cat. 325, pp. 481-482.

    Caracciolo, Maria Teresa. Giuseppe Cades, 1750-1799, et la Rome de son temps. Paris: Arthena, 1992, no.72, pl. 12.
    Wintermute, Alan. Review of Visions of Antiquity: Neoclassical Figure Drawings by Richard J. Campbell and Victor Carlson. Master Drawings, vol. 34 (1996), p. 439.
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    A brilliant if erratic artistic personality of great originality and chameleon-like contradictions, Giuseppe Cades was one of the best history painters in Rome during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. He was a precocious beginner whose mature style continued the late Roman classical Baroque manner at the same time that it adopted an avant-garde neo-Mannerism and extravagant, fantastic, romantic Neoclassicsm. Today Cades seems years ahead of his time, almost a nineteenth-century painter, in his romantic depiction of themes from Italy's medieval and Renaissance past and his attempts to achieve verisimilitude in period costumes and architecture. Although its subject is not clear, this drawing was undoubtedly created as a finished work in itself, the equivalent of a small painting. With its layering of fine, parallel shading lines, its subtle use of color, and its atmospheric contrast of light and dark, the sheet is a masterpiece of Cades's fluent and imaginative drawn oeuvre as well as a keystone of the Museum's splendid holding of eighteenth-century Roman drawings. Ann Percy, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 222.

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