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Title Armida in Vain Endeavours with her Entreaties to Prevent Rinaldo's Departure
Collection English Heritage (Kenwood House)
Artist Kauffmann, Angelica (Swiss painter and printmaker, 1741-1807)
Date Earliest about 1776
Date Latest about 1778
Description Both for her person and her work Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807) became one of the most admired artist-intellectuals of her age. She was born in Switzerland and followed her father, also a painter, to various northern Italian cities where she trained. Subsequently she continued her studies in Florence where she became friends with Benjamin West finally arriving in Rome in 1763 where she gravitated towards the Neoclassicists, Gavin Hamilton, Johann Joachim Winkelmann, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Pompeo Batoni. Here she produced portraits both of her friends and for Grand Tourists as well as concentrating on history painting. In 1765 she was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca (previously she also entered the Academies of Bologna and Florence). Her history paintings are characterized by an understanding of ancient literature and sculpture, from which they derive their balance and restraint, while her common theme became the experience of women. In 1766 Kauffmann moved to London where she was lucratively engaged as a portraitist, and through her studio-salon cultivated a powerful clientele, her she also became friends with Joshua Reynolds whom she aided in the establishment in the Royal Academy - of which she became a founder member - where she was to regularly exhibit works noted for their classical gravity and lyrical charm. In London she also worked with Robert Adam providing decorations for several of his interiors. In 1781 she married Antonio Zucchi and in 1782 they returned via Venice, to Rome, where she further developed her approach to history painting. Again she maintained an influential salon held in Meng's former apartments - suggesting her role as his heir - which was frequented by Goethe and Canova. As a result of these gatherings her last works became increasingly erudite while her style retained its lyrical grace. The Kenwood painting dates from the middle years of Kauffmann's London period, it illustrates an episode from Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, the popular epic poem compiled from traditional legends and ballads about the Crusaders. In this scene Armida, the sorceress who lured Christians to their deaths in her enchanted garden, is seen endeavouring to prevent the departure of the epic poem's hero, Rinaldo, with whom she has fallen in love in the moment she was about to kill him. The companions he has freed from Armida accompany him.
Current Accession Number 88029297
Subject mythology (Rinaldo Armida)
Measurements 100.3 x 125.8 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by T. A. Greeves to English Heritage 1997.
Provenance Probably exhibited Royal Academy, London 1776 (no. 158); Mr Greeves of Belfast about 1930; then by descent to Mr T. A. Greeves.
Principal Exhibitions Art Exhibitions Bureau, 1951-52; Art Exhibitions Bureau, 1953-54.
Publications Baumgartel, B., ed., exhib. cat. Retrospektive Angelika Kauffmann, Kunstmuseum Dusseldorf, 1998, p. 419, cat. 258; Bryant, J., English Heritage Collections Review, vol. 2, 1999, pp. 28-9.
Notes Angelica Kauffmann painted the subject of Rinaldo and Armida on two other occassions: her first treatment of the subject dates to 1772; this painting was in the collection of E. E. Cook and was presented to Kenwood in 1955 by the National Art Collections Fund.
Rights Owner Copyright English Heritage
Author Francesco Nevola




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