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The beguiling Syrian sorceress Armida has imprisoned the Christian crusader Rinaldo on her island kingdom. Passionately in love and secluded in a magical forest, Armida is flattered by Rinaldo as he implores her to gaze into a mirror and admire her beautiful locks of curls. Ultimately the great warrior spurns her advances, and the two soldiers in the upper-right corner, Carlo and Ubaldo, will soon rescue him.

Ludovico’s painting takes its subject from the most erotic episode of Torquato Tasso’s epic poem The Liberation of Jerusalem, published in 1581. For 250 years Tasso’s epic inspired scores of major European artists working in literature, opera, and the visual arts. Only Shakespeare was more imitated. Ludovico’s painting of 1593 is one of the very earliest works in this long tradition.

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