The Companions of Rinaldo

Nicolas Poussin (French, Les Andelys 1594–1665 Rome)

ca. 1633
Oil on canvas
46 1/2 x 40 1/4 in. (118.1 x 102.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1977
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This canvas probably belonged to the antiquary and collector Cassiano dal Pozzo. It illustrates an episode from Torquato Tasso’s (1544–1595) heroic crusader poem Jerusalem Delivered (1580), in which the Christian knights Carlo and Ubaldo confront a dragon in their attempt to rescue Rinaldo from a pagan sorceress. As the first crusade took place in the eleventh century, their antique Roman arms and armor are anachronistic.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This picture illustrates an episode from Torquato Tasso's heroic poem Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered). First published in 1580, the poem combines an account of the First Crusade with imaginary adventures and love stories. One of the heroes, Rinaldo, is abducted by the pagan sorceress Armida, who falls in love with him and carries him off to her palace on the island of Fortune. There she casts a spell on him causing him to fall in love with her. Two Christian knights, Carlo and Ubaldo, come to exhort Rinaldo to leave his beloved and rejoin his fellow crusaders, but their way to Armida's palace is blocked by a dragon. It is this scene, recorded in canto 15 of Tasso's poem that is represented here.

    One of four paintings by Poussin that illustrate the story of Rinaldo and Armida, this is the latest in the story's sequence and is usually dated in the early 1630s. A work from the same period, now in the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, shows Armida about to slay the sleeping Rinaldo, but suddenly arrested by his beauty. In a painting in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, slightly later than the Dulwich picture, Armida has dropped her dagger and is about to lift Rinaldo up and carry him off with her to her island. A third picture, in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, represents the actual carrying off of Rinaldo by Armida and was painted by Poussin in 1637 for his friend and fellow artist, Jacques Stella. These works cannot have formed a unified cycle as they differ in style and dimensions. A drawing by Poussin (Louvre, Paris) showing Carlo and Ubaldo leading Rinaldo off the island, a subject that could conceivably have formed a pendant, is too late to be associated with The Companions of Rinaldo.

    Although Tasso's poem enjoyed a great vogue among seventeenth-century painters, this appears to be a unique example of the Christian knights coming to Rinaldo's rescue. Carlo unsheathes his sword and holds it ready at his side while Ubaldo raises a magic golden wand; the mysterious woman seated in the boat is the goddess Fortuna, who leads the knights to the island. The artist has borrowed the motifs of the coiled dragon, Classical costumes, and even the cavernous setting by the sea from one of three sets of etchings by Antonio Tempesta (1555–1630) made between 1607 and 1630 (see Images). For the design of the antique boat, Poussin turned to a fragmentary sarcophagus (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Venice; see Fahy 2005), or one like it.

    The Companions of Rinaldo was most likely painted shortly before Poussin's Adoration of the Magi (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden), signed and dated 1633, a work generally recognized as launching his mature style. The vertical format of this canvas, which does not appear in his oeuvre after the early 1630s, would also support such a date. The picture may have belonged to Poussin's close friend and patron, Cassiano dal Pozzo (d. 1657), as it is listed in the posthumous inventory of his brother, Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo (d. 1689).

    [2010; adapted from Fahy 2005]

  • Provenance

    ?Cassiano dal Pozzo, Rome (until d. 1657); his brother, Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo, Rome (until d. 1689; as "un autre [du poussin] representant les deux chevalier qui vond delivrer Renaud des enchantements darmide"); his son, Gabriele dal Pozzo, Rome (1689–d. by January 1695; posthumous inv., 1695, no. 85, "Altro . . . con Carlo e Ubaldo che vanno da Rinaldo del Pusino"); his son, Cosimo Antonio dal Pozzo, Rome (until 1723; sold to Bufalo); marchese Ottavio Rinaldo dal Bufalo, Rome (1723–at least 1731; no longer in collection in 1740); ?Graf Aloys Thomas Raimond von Harrach, Vienna (probably purchased in late 1731 or 1732 [Harrach was Viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples, 1728–32]); Grafen von Harrach, Vienna (by 1738; invs., 1745 and 1749, no. 74; cat., 1856, no. 200 as by Le Sueur; cat., 1897, no. 199 as by Le Sueur; cat., 1926, no. 199 as by Poussin); Countess Stephanie Harrach, Vienna (until 1967; sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, New York, 1967–68; sold to Wrightsman]; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1968–77; cat., 1973, no. 18)

  • Exhibition History

    Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum. "Poussin," December 1, 1935–February 28, 1936, no. 2 (as "The Battle with the Dragon," by Poussin, lent from the collection of Count Czernin).

    Kunstmuseum Bern. "Europäische Barockmalerai aus Wiener Privatgalerien: Czernin, Harrach, Schwartzenberg," December 21, 1947–March 31, 1948, no. 37 (lent by Galerie Harrach).

    Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Exposition Nicolas Poussin," May 1–August 29, 1960, no. 32.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections," May 26–August 22, 1982, not in catalogue.

  • References

    Robert de Cotte. Mémoire des tableaux qui sont dans la maison du chevalier du Puis [dal Pozzo]. [ca. 1689] [Bibliothèque Nationale, Ms. Fr 9447, fol. 201–13; first chapter published by Philippe de Chennevières-Pointel, in "Recherches sur la vie et les ouvrages de quelques peintres provinciaux de l'ancienne France, Paris: Dumoulin, 1854, p. 152], lists among the works of Poussin in the dal Pozzo collection a picture "representant les deux chevalier qui vond delivrer Renaud des enchantements darmide" (representing the two soldiers going to rescue Rinaldo from the enchantment of Armida).

    Anton Gruss. Verzeichniss der gräflich Harrach'schen Gemälde-Gallerie zu Wien. Vienna, 1856, p. 41, no. 200, attributes the picture to Eustache Le Sueur.

    Catalog der Erlaucht Gräflich von Harrach'schen Bildergallerie. Vienna, 1897, p. 74, no. 199, maintains the picture's attribution to Eustache Le Sueur.

    Walter Friedlaender. Nicolas Poussin: Die Entwicklung seiner Kunst. Munich, 1914, p. 128, lists a picture of this subject by Poussin formerly in the dal Pozzo collection but does not provide a location at time of writing; incorrectly cites Jonathan Richardson's "Traité de la peinture," 1728, as the source for this provenance; notes that a similar scene is depicted in a drawing engraved by H. Leroy [present location of drawing and/or engraving unknown].

    Otto Grautoff. Nicolas Poussin: Sein Werk und sein Leben. Munich, 1914, vol. 1, p. 110; vol. 2 , pp. 66–67, no. 141, ill., publishes this painting as a work by Poussin dating from 1630–35 in the Harrach collection; comments on its condition.

    Hermann Ritschl. Katalog der Erlaucht Gräflich Harrachschen Gemälde-Galerie in Wien. Vienna, 1926, p. 67, no. 199, attributes the picture to Poussin; describes the subject as a scene from Tasso's "Gerusalemme liberata XIV" [Jeruslam Delivered, canto 14] and identifies the soldiers as Karl of Denmark, on the right, and his companion Ugobaldo; transcribes an old label, fixed to the frame, which reads: "Carolus et Hubertus / Tassus cec. Rinaldum / liberaturi / Poussinus Roma."; erroneously identifies the woman in the boat as Armida [she is Fortuna].

    W. Friedlaender in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 27, Leipzig, 1933, vol. 27, p. 324, connects the Harrach picture for the first time with the picture cited in the Pozzo collection; states that the two companions are represented in two drawings in the Louvre, Paris

    Wolfgang Born. "A Poussin Exhibition at Vienna." Burlington Magazine 68 (February 1936), p. 101, refers to it as "Fight with the Dragon," apparently dated 1630–35 in the context of the exhibition [catalogue not available].

    Louis Hourticq. La jeunesse de Poussin. Paris, 1937, p. 97, notes that it is faithful to Tasso's text.

    Thérèse Bertin-Mourot. "Notes et documents." Société Poussin premier cahier (June 1947), p. 73.

    Louis Massignon. "L'amour courtois de l'Islam dans la 'Gerusalemme Liberata' du tasse: À propos d'un tableau de Poussin." Société Poussin premier cahier (June 1947), p. 35.

    W. Friedlaender, in collaboration with A. Blunt, and R. Wittkower. The Drawings of Nicolas Poussin: Catalogue Raisonné. 2, London, 1949, pp. 21, 23, state that five paintings by or after Poussin illustrate the story of Rinaldo and Armida; date the present work early in the 1630s and mention that no preparatory drawings for it are known to exist, although two drawings in the Louvre represent a moment close to it in the narrative.

    Doris Wild. "Nicolas Poussin von den Schlachtenbildern zum sterbenden Germanikus." Actes du XIXe congrès international d'histoire de l'art. Paris, 1959, p. 452, assigns the picture to Poussin's early Roman period, commenting on the relatively unarticulated landscape and sky which she finds typical of his works of this time.

    Anthony Blunt in Exposition Nicolas Poussin. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1960, p. 69, no. 32, ill., dates it between 1630 and 1633; states that the subject is taken from canto 15 of Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered; suggests that in its scale, style and vertical format—unusual for the artist—the picture resembles Poussin's "Arcadian Shepherds" (Chatsworth, Devonshire) and "Inspiration of the Lyric Poet" (Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum, Hanover); states that the present picture must be the one formerly in the dal Pozzo collection; adds that it is not known when exactly the work entered the Harrach Collection


    Francis Haskell and Sheila Rinehart. "The Dal Pozzo Collection, Some New Evidence." Burlington Magazine 102 (July 1960), p. 324, reprints in full de Cotte's account of the dal Pozzo Collection.

    Günther Heinz. Katalog der Graf Harrach'schen Gemäldegalerie. Vienna, 1960, p. 59, no. 70, fig. 12, dates it about 1630 and reports that it appeared as no. 74 in the Harrach collection inventories of 1745 and 1749.

    Denis Mahon. "Poussin's Early Development: An Alternative Hypothesis." Burlington Magazine 102 (July 1960), p. 300, dates the picture around 1632, after the "Inspiration of the Poet" (Louvre, Paris) and towards the end of Poussin's "blond" phase; comments that it has been recently cleaned.

    Sheila Somers Rinehart. "Poussin et la famille dal Pozzo." Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1960, vol. 1, p. 29, no. 4, lists it as Rinaldo and Armida in the Harrach collection, formerly in the dal Pozzo collection, and tentatively dates it about 1628.

    Jacques Thuillier. "Pour un 'Corpus Pussinianum'." Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1960, vol. 2, p. 203, publishes de Cotte's list [Ref. 1689] of Pozzo's holdings, commenting on the dating and authorship of the manuscript.

    Georg Kauffmann. "Poussins letztes Werk." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 24, no. 2 (1961), pp. 113–14, suggests that the ornamented boat was taken from a similar one depicted in relief on a sarcophagus fragment that was in Trastevere during Poussin's time and preserved in an engraving by the Master of the Die (fig. 13).

    Rensselaer W. Lee. "Armida's Abandonment: A Study in Tasso Iconography Before 1700." De artibus opuscula XL: Essays in Honor of Erwin Panofsky. New York, 1961, pp. 347–48, assigns Poussin's four pictures with the story of Rinaldo and Armida to the 1630's; notes that ours is the latest in the series, taken from canto 15.

    Denis Mahon. "Poussiniana: Afterthoughts Arising from the Exhibition." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 60 (July–August 1962), p. 53, states that the picture fits between the "Realm of Flora" of 1631 and the "Adoration of the Magi" of 1633 (both Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden), "though it could perhaps be rather nearer the latter than the former"; adds that it does not "conflict in any fundamental way with the color and touch (allowing, as we must, for the differences in dimensions) of the Louvre 'Inspiration of the Poet'".

    Anthony Blunt. "Poussin and his Roman Patrons." Walter Friedlaender zum 90. Geburtstag. Berlin, 1965, p. 61, states that from the various accounts of pictures belonging to Cassiano dal Pozzo's family after his death, the "Companions of Rinaldo" can be identified with reasonable certainty as his or his brother's.

    Anthony Blunt. The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin: A Critical Catalogue. [London], [1966], pp. 141–42, no. 205, ill., dates it about 1633–35.

    Walter Fiedlaender. Nicolas Poussin: A New Approach. New York, 1966, p. 50.

    Anthony Blunt. Nicolas Poussin [The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, 1958]. New York, 1967, vol. 1, p. 148; vol. 2, pl. 86, explains "Poussin's somewhat unexpected choice of themes" from Jerusalem Delivered by drawing attention to Tasso's 'Allegoria' prefixed to the poem, but rarely reprinted in modern editions, "in which he tells the reader that it is to be read not simply as a series of stories but as a carefully planned allegory symbolizing the order of things".

    Rensselaer W. Lee. Letter to Anne Poulet. February 12, 1970, remarks that Poussin has followed Tasso's text even to the dragon's breathing fire and smoke, and the description of the snug harbour into which the lady—whom he identifies as the goddess Fortuna—has guided her boat; notes also that "in Cesare Ripa's 'Iconologia' which Poussin certainly knew, the destruction of pleasures and base affections, really the goal of the two knights in Tasso . . . is represented by a warrior threatening a dragon"; states that the earliest represenation of this scene is a drawing by the Ferrarese painter Domenico Mona, from a ca. 1580 manuscript of the poem (see La Gerusalemme Liberata in venti disegni di Domenico Mona, ed. Luciano Capra, Ferrara, n.d., but "recently published").

    Sheila Somers Rinehart. Letter to Anne Poulet. July 5, 1971, suggests that the inscription on the label is very likely "the transcription of an original inscription in capital letters, in imitation of a Roman upper case, such as was found on the back of the original canvas of another work, also certainly from Cassiano's collection, the 'Eliezer and Rebecca' in Mr. Denis Mahon's collection"; adds that it is "fairly safe to assume" that this original label was covered-up during a relining.

    Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée. "Tableaux de Poussin et d'autres artistes français dans la collection Dal Pozzo: Deux inventaires inédits." Revue de l'art no. 19 (1973), p. 83, publishes Gabriele dal Pozzo's inventory of 1695 (Archivo di Stato, office 6, vol. 210), in which the picture is listed as no. 85.

    Everett Fahy in "Paintings, Drawings." The Wrightsman Collection. 5, [New York], 1973, pp. 159–68, no. 18, ill. p. 161 (color), figs. 1–3, 8 (details), 9 (x-radiograph detail), dates it before 1633 on stylistic grounds and considers it unlikely that this and Poussin's other paintings depicting earlier events from Tasso's poem were conceived as a unified series; discusses Antonio Tempesta's engraving of the "Companions of Rinaldo," and is tempted to think Poussin was inspired by the coiled snake and classical costumes in Tempesta's engraving; recognizes motifs in the helmets and armor that have been copied from specific classical antiquities; suggests that the scenes's transpostion from the Middle Ages to ancient times is typical of the creative process by which Poussin sought to elevate his subjects and that dal Pozzo's enthusiasm for antiquity may well account for the strongly archaeological character of this transformation; observes that "the scalloped edges of the original canvas indicate that it has not been cut down to any considerable extent, since the scalloped pattern was formed when the canvas was nailed to the original stretcher"

    Jacques Thuillier. L'opera completa di Poussin. Milan, 1974, pp. 94, 130, no. 74, ill., dates the picture 1631–33; considers it likely that the canvas was trimmed at the top and cut down considerably in the width, as its proprtions are unusual for Poussin's paintings.

    Dean Walker in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1975–1979. New York, 1979, pp. 50–51, ill.

    Doris Wild. Nicolas Poussin: Leben, Werk, Exkurse. Zürich, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 55, 68; vol. 2, p. 71, no. 71, ill., dates it probably 1636.

    Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1982, p. 370, no. 4, ill. [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines, Paris, 1982].

    Christopher Wright. Poussin Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné. New York, 1985, pp. 48–49, 166, 176–77, 281, no. 78, ill. in color, assigns the picture to the early 1630s.

    Timothy J. Standring. Letter to the Curator of European Paintings. August 11, 1987, states that the painting was owned by Marchese Ottavio Rinaldo dal Bufalo from as early as April 10, 1723, when he signed a receipt for this picture as well as others by Poussin from Cosimo Antonio dal Pozzo; he owned it until at least October 22, 1731, when a notary document mentions that dal Bufalo still retained the paintings; adds that dal Pozzo documents in the Archivo Capitolino of Rome suggest that the painting was no longer in their collection by 1740; concludes that if Count Aloys Thomas Raimund Harrach was in Italy between 1728 and 1732, he probably purchased the picture either in late 1731, or sometime during 1732.

    Jean-Jacques Lévêque. La vie et l'oeuvre de Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1988, pp. 174–75, ill. (color).

    Alain Mérot. Nicolas Poussin. New York, 1990, p. 287, no. 195, ill.

    Pierre Rosenberg in Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1994, pp. 170, 404.

    Anthony Blunt. Nicolas Poussin [based on Ref. Blunt 1967]. London, 1995, pp. 148, 150, ill. in color.

    Jonathan Unglaub. "Poussin's Reflection." Art Bulletin 86 (September 2004), pp. 506, 509, fig. 6.

    Joseph Baillio et al. The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, [2005], pp. 51, 71, no. 11, ill., date it about 1633.

    Everett Fahy in The Wrightsman Pictures. New York, 2005, pp. 136–40, no. 38, ill. (color).

    Everett Fahy in Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 32.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History