by Alexandra Tuschka
How brazen! The lecherous old man sneaks into the picture from the left and pulls the cloth off the slumbering nude. She seems to have sunk into a pleasant dream; at least a gentle smile appears on her face.
The episode shown here is found in Ariost's "Raging Roland", an Italian epic in which Angelica is the female protagonist. A hermit, struggling with his self-imposed chastity, dispatched a demon that infested Angelica's horse and eventually stranded her on an island. There, the demon imposed a hypnotic sleep on her. In the painting, this demon still sits cheekily in the right corner of the picture, watching the old man's attempt to approach the girl. Not only is she presented by Rubens on a red velvet blanket, but her pose seems almost inviting. Comfortably she stretches her "Rubens figure" towards the viewer and the old man.
Not without compassion Rubens has depicted the conflict of the old man, who is overcome here by his inner longings. A delicate situation! And yet the story ends smoothly - shortly before the sexual act, the old man had to realize that his virility had dried up.
Peter Paul Rubens - Angelica and the Hermit
Oil on canvas, 1626 - 1628, 43 x 66 cm, Museum of Art History in Vienna