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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Louis Vallée/Silvio with the Wounded Dorinda/165(1)?,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, (accessed September 30, 2020).


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Apr 24, 2014 Version

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Louis Vallée took his subject from Giovanni Battista Guarini's late sixteenth-century tragicomedy Il Pastor Fido, a pastoral play that glorified arcadian life and had far-ranging effects on the art and literature of France, Flanders, and the Netherlands. Its extremely intricate plot focuses on the love between the faithful shepherd Mirtillo and the nymph Amarillis, who is betrothed to Silvio by paternal arrangement. This scene is from the play’s subplot, which concentrates on the love of the nymph Dorinda for Silvio, who cares only for the hunt and is oblivious to her feelings. After one of Silvio’s arrows accidentally wounds Dorinda, she crawls out from the bushes where she had been hiding in her animal-skin disguise and falls into the arms of her guardian, Linco. Silvio, distraught and finally realizing his own love for Dorinda, offers her the arrow so that she can exact revenge by taking his life in return. Dorinda, whose wound is only superficial, wisely rejects his emotional offer so that all ends well. The two lovers are married before sunset that very day.

Silvio with the Wounded Dorinda is an excellent example of Dutch classicism as it developed in Amsterdam around mid-century. History paintings such as this work were greatly admired and avidly collected by Amsterdam patricians. Almost nothing is known about the life of the artist Louis Vallée. Unfortunately, the first and only document that refers specifically to him is the register that records his burial in Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk on May 28, 1653.


Louis Vallée drew this subject from Giovanni Battista Guarini’s late sixteenth-century tragicomedy Il Pastor Fido, a pastoral play that glorified arcadian life and had far-ranging effects in art and literature in France, Flanders, and the Netherlands.[1] Its intricate plot focuses on the love between the shepherd Mirtillo and the nymph Amarillis, who, by paternal arrangement, was betrothed to Silvio. The scene Vallée has depicted, however, is the culmination of the subplot, which centers on the nymph Dorinda’s love for Silvio, Amarillis’ intended. In the play, Silvio shows nothing but disdain for Dorinda and cares only for the hunt. Dorinda, not showing the best judgment, decides to disguise herself with a wolf skin and follow her beloved on the hunt. Silvio, mistaking Dorinda for an animal, inadvertently shoots and wounds her with an arrow. Vallée depicts the moment when Dorinda, having emerged from the bushes where she had been hiding, has fallen into the arms of the aged Linco, who always cared for her as a second father. In Guarini’s telling, the distraught Silvio, suddenly realizing he is in love with Dorinda, gives her the arrow so that she can exact revenge by taking his life in return. Happily, as befitting a tragicomedy, Dorinda’s wound is only superficial and she spares her beloved Silvio. To the great joy of the assembled company, the couple marries that very day.

Vallée emphasizes the emotional drama unfolding between Silvio and the wounded Dorinda, rather than the play’s broader narrative sweep, by filling the picture plane of this large canvas with the three protagonists. Dorinda, dressed in a classicizing manner with a red satin skirt, white blouse, and strand of pearls in her hair, reclines sensuously in the arms of Linco, her pale skin amply exposed to reveal the bloody wound in her breast. The wolf skin that served as her ill-fated disguise is beneath and behind her, while Silvio’s gold and black quiver of arrows and polished hunting horn lie abandoned next to her recumbent body. With a loving gaze, Silvio leans forward and offers the fateful arrow, its tip still wet with her blood, to Dorinda so that she can exact revenge by plunging it into Silvio’s chest. In Guarini's text, Silvio says:

Behold with bended knees I show thee rev’rence.
O grant me pardon, and deny me life!
Behold my arrows, and my bow I give;
Ah do not wound, but spare these eyes, these hands,
Which were the guilty ministers because
By an unguilty will they were directed.
Here strike my breast, that enemy to love,
Foe to all tenderness, this cruel heart
Which was so harsh to thee. My breast is open.[2]

Dorinda, whose wound is superficial, wisely rejects Silvio’s offer, all the while giving him a sidelong glance as though gauging the sincerity of his intentions. In its emotional and pictorial impact, Vallée’s interpretation of the scene is in keeping with the character of the tragicomedy. As Guarini defined it, tragicomedy is “the mingling of tragic and comic pleasure, which does not allow hearers to fall into excessive tragic melancholy or comic relaxation.”[3]

The most important visual prototype for Vallée was a painting of the same subject that Herman Saftleven (Dutch, 1609 - 1685) executed in 1635 for the influential Il Pastor Fido cycle at the palace at Honselaarsdijk, the hunting lodge of Prince Frederik Hendrik and his wife, Amalia van Solms [fig. 1]. Despite the differences in the scale of the protagonists and in their relationship to the surrounding landscape, the disposition of Vallée’s figures is remarkably similar to those in Saftleven’s painting, although in reverse. The compositional connections between these works are so strong that one wonders if Vallée had an opportunity to see Saftleven’s painting in Amalia’s private quarters at Honselaarsdijk.[4]

Silvio with the Wounded Dorinda is one of only a handful of paintings attributed to Vallée, most of which are portraits.[5] The painting’s large scale, its idealized figures, and the sensual subject matter are characteristic of mid-seventeenth-century Dutch classicism, particularly as it developed in Leiden, Haarlem, and Amsterdam.[6] The few paintings known by the artist, which date between 1646 and 1653, are stylistically similar to works by Jacob van Loo (1614–1670), Bartholomeus van der Helst (c. 1613–1670), and Abraham van den Tempel (1622/1623–1672). Unfortunately, nothing is known about Vallée’s training or where he primarily worked, although documents indicate that he painted for clients in Leiden, Haarlem, and Amsterdam.[7] He lived in the Warmoesstraat in Amsterdam at the time of his death and was buried in that city, but he does not seem to have owned property there.

The Amsterdam painter Jacob Backer (1608–1651) apparently influenced Vallée, as he did Van den Tempel, and it is possible that Vallée studied with this older master. Backer’s mature history paintings, such as his Cimon and Iphigenia, c. 1640 [fig. 2], were greatly admired and avidly collected by Amsterdam patricians. The close similarities in the sensual poses of Vallée’s Dorinda and Backer’s Iphigenia indicate that Vallée knew this work.[8] Similarities also exist in the rhythms of folds and in the highlights modeling the drapery. Not surprisingly, Silvio with the Wounded Dorinda was formerly attributed to Backer.[9] Wouter Kloek, who was able to interpret the badly abraded signature below the arrow sheaf and connect it to known signatures by the artist, has correctly and definitively attributed this painting to Vallée.[10]

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014


lower right to left of arrow sheaf: Loiy[s] Vallee. / f [1]65[1?]



(Alex Wengraf, London), by 1983;[1] purchased 1990 by by Patricia Bauman and the Honorable John Landrum Bryant, Washington, D.C.; gift 2000 to NGA.

Technical Summary

The painting is on a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric, which has been lined. The tacking margins are extant, but the painting has been reduced in size along the left edge, where approximately 1.5 cm of the pictorial surface has been folded over to serve as part of the tacking edge. The support is covered by a thin red ground layer; the paint is fluid and layered with extensive glazes. The artist used the ground as a base tonality in the flesh colors, sky, and landscape. The X-radiographs show a change in Dorinda’s proper right foot, and examination with infrared reflectography at 1.5 – 2.0 microns[1] indicates that the artist originally painted Silvio’s proper left ring finger outstretched and touching the arrow.

The painting is in fairly good condition, though there is a pattern of wrinkles through the paint probably caused by a past lining procedure. The X-radiographs show a tear through the left side of Dorinda’s chest, as well as one through the shepherd’s head. In addition to paint losses associated with the tears, small losses exist in the upper right corner, scattered in the drapery just below Silvio’s shoulder, in his proper right hand, and along the edges of the composition. Examination with ultraviolet light reveals a fair amount of inpainting covering abrasion in the sky; the shepherd’s head; Dorinda’s face, shoulder, chest, and drapery; and Silvio’s face and drapery. The signature and date are abraded.


[1] Infrared reflectography was performed using a Kodak 310-21X PtSi camera.

Sumowski, Werner. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler in vier Bänden. 6 vols. Landau, 1983: 6:3731, no. 2373, repro., as Silvio und die verwundete Dorinda by Jacob van Loo.
Brink, Peter van den. "Uitmuntend schilder in het groot: De schilder en tekenaar Jacob Adriaensz Backer (1608/9-1651)." In Jacob Backer (1608/9-1651). Edited by Peter van den Brink and Jaap van der Veen. Exh. cat. Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam; Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen. Zwolle, 2008: 54-55, repro.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. "Wouter Kloek and the Attribution of Louis Vallée’s 'Silvio with the Wounded Dorinda'." The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 58, no. 2 (2010): 173-177, repro.
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Related Terms
Arcadian scenes
artist +Herman Saftleven + influence of
desire +symbolical representation of concept
reciprocal love
unrequited love
historical person +Giovanni Batista Guarini + author critic