Archetypically, I feel that Bradamante’s character had two major influences. The first was the Greek Goddess Athena.
The second influence was of the historical figure of Joan of Arc or Jeanne d’Arc. I find that comparison more compelling and I feel that it was not incidental, but instead a deliberate attempt by Ariosto to invoke the parallels between the literary heroine and the real life French martyr. Jeanne d’Arc who was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19. She had been known for riding a white horse, carrying a banner made of white fabric, was called “the Maid,” had cropped hair and dressed in men’s clothing.
Ariosto neglected to mention the length of Bradamante’s hair until finally in Canto 25 when her twin brother Ricciardetto relates a tale to Ruggiero of how people commonly confuse him and his sister Bradamante since they have such great resemblance to each other. The confusion about her sex was compounded when she lost her tresses due to the head injury. (Orlando furioso, Canto XXV, verses 22-24)
Bradamante also disguised herself as a man when she approached the thief Brunello at an inn and sought to have him serve as her guide to find where Ruggiero was being held captive.
“Name, sex, race, family and place of birth
She hides, watching his hands for all she’s worth.” (Orlando furioso, Canto III, verse 76)
The greatest differences between Bradamante and Jeanne d’Arc is that the literary heroine is revered by her king, never accused of heresy, has a love life, and a much better fate than the historical figure.
Here are more artistic renderings of Bradamante.
Of all the characters in Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso, my favorite is Bradamante. She is a strong heroine who rarely loses her temper. Twice she gave into seeking revenge. Once was going after Martisino and the second was Pinabel. Both times she suffered due to her lust for vengeance. In Fate of the Saracen Knight, Bradamante hears rumors of Ruggiero being romantically involved with another warrior maiden. Will she suffer if she sets out on another quest for vengeance?