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Undertaken between the end of 1812 and the beginning of 1813, the painting was a test piece for Hayez’s fourth year of residency in Rome. Hayez was already in Rome in 1809 on a scholarship awarded by the Accademia di Belle Arti to hone his talent. In reference to Hayez’s extraordinary artistic potential, Cicognara wrote on April 28 1812 in a letter to Canova: “Oh by God we too shall have a painter: but we must keep him in Rome for a few more years and I shall do everything to make him stay there”. The Rinaldo and Armida, taken from one of the most famous episodes in Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, was exhibited in early 1813 at the Accademia Nazionale di Venezia in Rome to great success before being sent to Venice’s Accademia di Belle Arti in the the summer of the same year, once again to great acclaim.
This is one of the most convincing of Hayez’s youthful production and still very much in the Neoclassical vein, in which the two plastic figures in the foreground explicitly reference contemporary masterpieces by Canova such as the Paolina Borghese / Venus Victrix created betwen 1805 and 1808, as well as the illustrious Venetian painting tradition of the Cinquecento “in the direction of the warmest of Titianesque naturalism”, as Fernando Mazzocca noted (1994).