Camilla in Battle
Panel from a cassone; possibly a companion to The Legend of Cloelia, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (11.126.2)
Matteo di Giovanni (Matteo di Giovanni di Bartolo), Italian (active Siena and environs and Borgo San Sepolcro), first documented 1452, died 1495, or Guidoccio di Giovanni Cozzarelli, Italian (active Siena), 1450 - 1517.
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This panel may have once been the front part of a marriage chest. The usual wear and tear on such pieces (the marks in the upper center were probably made by keys used to open the chest) makes precise attribution difficult, but this work is likely by either Matteo di Giovanni or Guidoccio Cozzarelli. Its subject, derived from the Roman poet Virgil’s Aeneid, shows warrior-princess Camilla leading her female tribe in support of the Latins in their fight against the Trojans. Shown here holding a bow, Camilla was eventually killed by the Trojan Arruns, whose subsequent fate is depicted in the left foreground: huntress-goddess Diana’s nymph Opsis prepares to kill him. For fifteenth-century viewers, Camilla’s bravery may have provoked a mixed reaction. Although heroic, chaste, and loyal, Camilla’s transgressions against what was considered proper female behavior made her an ambiguous role model.