Amigoni takes his subject from Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata, an epic poem completed in 1575 and published in Parma six years later. Tasso’s poem recounts tales from the first crusade, culminating in Godfrey de Bouillon's liberation of Jerusalem in 1099. The episode selected by the artist is an account from Book II, in which a female mercenary, Clorinda, dramatically rescues two Christian lovers from burning at the stake. In the painting we see Sophronia, a Christian accused of desecrating an Islamic image, sentenced to death by the Saracens and lashed to the stake with her lover, Olindo, who has chosen to die by her side. A Saracen, poised to ignite the pyre, is interrupted by the arrival of the Persian Clorinda, in full armour, who rides in on a white stallion, to the evident surprise of the Saracen king at left:
The lovers standing in this doleful wise,
A warrior bold unwares approached near,
In uncouth arms yclad and strange disguise,
From countries far, but new arrived there,
A savage tigress on her helmet lies,
The famous badge Clorinda used to bear;
That wonts in every warlike stowre to win,
By which bright sign well known was that fair inn.2
Touched by the plight of the two Christian lovers, Clorinda offers to fight alongside the Saracens in return for their lives being spared. Tasso’s work enjoyed renewed success at the beginning of the eighteenth century, though this is the only known painting by Amigoni to have been inspired by the poem. Other Venetian painters of the period, however, found inspiration in the subject, including Giambattista Pittoni, whose depiction of Clorinda rescuing Olinda and Sophronia is now in the Museo Civico, Vicenza.3
1. A. Scarpa Sonino, Jacopo Amigoni, Soncino 1994, pp. 132-135, cat. no. 34, reproduced p. 133.
2. T. Tasso, Gerusalemme liberata, (E. Fairfax translation, London 1600), H. Morley (ed.), New York 1901, book II, canto XXXVIII.
3. F. Zava Boccazzi, Pittoni, Venice 1979, pp. 179-180, cat. no. 241 reproduced figs. 35-36.
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