Erminia meets the shepherds, Camillo Gavassetti, Second half of the twenties of the seventeenth century

Erminia meets the shepherds
Camillo Gavassetti (Modena 1596 - Parma post 1630)


Oil on canvas, on the right, a young woman with dark hair tied back and held in by ribbons of pearls is depicted. She is dressed in warrior clothes: she wears a red tunic with wide sleeves, while her torso is protected by a metal armor; with her left arm he holds a helmet, adorned on the top by a golden lioness.

Her opposite arm is raised in greeting, addressed to a pair of shepherds at the door of a house. The one in the foreground, older and bearded, is intent on weaving a wicker basket, interrupted in his work, wearing simple, ocher-colored clothes; further away, in the background, there is a young man with a whistle, long hair and a beardless face, an expression of amazement on his eyes.

Dimensions: 114 x 156 cm


Historical-critical analysis:

The scene represented refers to an episode in the Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso. Erminia, a pagan princess, had in fact stolen the armor of the warrior Clorinda to be able to reach her beloved Tancredi, wounded on the battlefield at night; but she is escorted by the enemies and mistaken for the fighter, but she is forced to flee into the woods to save herself. Here she meets some shepherds, including a gray-haired elderly man who had been agricultural councilor at the court of Mengi, but who, having known the injustice of the courts, had decided to retire to a simple and pure life; Erminia herself decides to follow her example.

As Dr. Massimo Pulini indicates in his report, the author is undoubtedly identifiable with Camillo Gavassetti, a Modenese painter active between Modena and Piacenza. If the setting of the scene looks at the composition of Guercino’s work on the same subject, made for the Duke of Modena between 1619 and 1620, our painting is characterized by a completely autonomous character.

In fact, it is possible to combine it with other works certain by him and, in particular, the comparison with a canvas recently passed on the antiques market, presented as an anonymous work, is interesting. Instead, it could plausibly be considered an original pendant to ours, a work by Gavassetti: an Erminia is depicted stripping off her possessions, thematically following the Encounter between Erminia and the shepherds, also being able to find similar measurements between the two canvases.

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