Salvator Rosa (Italian, Neapolitan, 1615–1673)
Oil on canvas
77 1/2 x 47 1/2 in. (196.9 x 120.7 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1965 (65.118)
Salvator Rosa was one of the most fascinating and multitalented artists of the seventeenth century. Not content to be the friend of poets and intellectuals, he wrote poetry, acted, and espoused tenets of ancient stoic philosophy. He was an early proponent of what was to become the ideal of the unfettered artistic imagination, declaring to one high-placed patron that he painted only when "I feel myself rapt." Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid was the catalyst for this haunting image, which shows the exhausted Aeneas asleep on the banks of the Tiber River. "And there appeared to him the God of the place, old Tiber himself, who arose from his pleasant stream amid his poplar-leaves. A fine linen clothed him in grey raiment, and shady reeds covered his hair." In his dream, the river god assured Aeneas that his travels were over and he had reached his goal—the founding of Rome.