The story of 'Rinaldo and Armida' forms part of the epic poem Gerusalemme Liberata or Jerusalem Delivered first published in 1581, by the 16th Century Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544-1595). The poem relays the various combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade to regain the grave of Christ and ends with the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 and the establishment of a Christian kingdom. Goffredo (Godfrey of Bouillon), leader of the First Crusade, and Rinaldo, captain of the Christian forces, lead their troops to free Jerusalem from the Saracen king, Argante. Argante's ally, the Queen of Damascus and enchantress Armida vows to stop Rinaldo and enters the Christian camp to stab him. Stunned by his beauty, Armida falls in love with Rinaldo and decides to capture him. Goffredo and fellow knight Eustazio manage to free Rinaldo from Armida's clutches, later ensuring the victory of Christian forces.
French painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649) is famed for having introduced the Italianate baroque style of painting into France. Vouet left France for Italy in 1613 to study the works of the likes of Caravaggio, Veronese and Reni. Vouet was president of Rome's Accademia di San Luca when he was called back to Paris in 1627 by Louis XIII to supervise the decoration of the Bâtiments Royaux and provide cartoons for Parisian ateliers.
The series of Rinaldo and Armida is inspired by Vouet's decoration in 1632 of Louis XIII's Surintendant des Btiments, Henri de Fourcy's chateau de Chessy (see J. Thuillier, Vouet, exh. cat, Paris, 1990-1, p.512). The decor created by Vouet for the chateau de Chessy comprised a series of twelve panels, the first of which depicts the present scene. The first sets inspired by Vouet's series of Rinaldo and Armida were woven in the ateliers of the Faubourg Saint-Marcel during the first half if the 17th Century.
Vouet painted the gallery of the Paris townhouse of Claude de Bullion, the Minister of Finance for Louis XIII, with related scenes from the story of Rinaldo and Armida and his painting for the Hotel de Bullion depicts, as in the present tapestry, Rinaldo being carried away by Armida (ill. M. Fenaille, Etat Général des Tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins, 1903, vol. I, pg. 321).
A related tapestry of circa 1640 after Simon Vouet, depicting Rinaldo in Armida's arms, was sold, Christie's, Monaco, 16-17 June 2001, lot 702, and further related tapestries of the same series with identical foliate-scrolled borders include a tapestry, offered, Christie's, Paris, 24 June 2002, lot 137, and another, formerly in the Hermitage Musem (N. Biriukova, Les Tapisseries Francaises de la fin du XVe au XXe siècles dans les collections de l'Ermitage, Leningrad, 1974, cat. 18.).
The epic and romanticized story of Rinaldo and Armida was also adapted for plays, operas, ballets, and paintings throughout the world, becoming a favoured subject for many artists, among whom, George Friedrich Handel (whose opera Rinaldo was first performed in London in 1711) and acclaimed painter Francois Boucher, whose romanticised rendition of Rinaldo and Armida dated 1734 is in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.