Arnold Böcklin, Roger Freeing Angelica, 1873

In keeping with yesterday’s ‘Damsel in Distress’ theme, let’s look at Böcklin’s painting about Roger and Angelica from 12 years earlier. It’s scene out of the play Orlando Furioso, written by Italian playwright Ludovico Ariosto in 1516. Roger is out riding the coast at Brittany on his hippogriff, a hybrid animal that is half-horse half-eagle. He spots Angelica, nude and tied to rock on the coast, left there by barbarians to be killed by a sea monster. Roger rushes over just as the monster surfaces near Angelica and he saves her in the nick of time.

Strangely, Böcklin has not included the sea or a hippogriff in the painting. Our sea monster here looks more like a cowering dog being castigated for stealing food off the table when no one was looking, rather than a fearsome beast.

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