Records of events that took place during the Last Supper
differ considerably among four Gospels (washing of feet,
arguments among apostles, institution of Lord's supper, etc.).
The order of these events is important, for instance, to determine
whether Judas was present when Jesus instituted Lord's Supper.
Also, whether the dispute occurred before or after the washing
of feet matters.
What is the exact order of these events during the Last Supper?
Jesus fortells one of the twelve will betray
him. Jesus does not point out who the traitor
is. Mark does not make it clear whether
Judas was present when the Lord's Supper is
instituted by Jesus. After the supper,
Apostles go to Mount of Olives, singing a
hymn. Before reaching Gethesemane, Jesus
predicts Peter's denial.
Matthew is more specific. Judas asks
"Surely not I, Rabbi?" and Jesus replies,
"You have said so." Again, Matthew does
not make it clear whether Judas was present
when Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper.
After the dinner, Apostles go to Mout Olivet
singing a hymn. On the road, Jesus predicts
Peter's denial, not at the supper.
After the Lord's Supper is instituted, Jesus
predicts one of them will betray him, but
Luke does not mention the exchange
between Judas and Jesus. Luke further
writes (12:24) "A dispute also arose among
Luke 12 them as to which one of them was to be
regarded as the greatest." But Jesus resolves
it by saying, "rather the greatest among you
must become like the youngest, and the
leader like one who serves."
Jesus washes Apostles feet and then predicts
one of them will betray him. John skips the
institution of the Lord's Supper. Jesus gives
Apostles a new commandment to love one
another and predicts Peter's denial before the
John 13 After the supper, Jesus explains he is leaving
to "prepare a place." Next, he promises to
send the Holy Spirit who will be with them
forever. Jesus then delivers his last
discourse, probably an hour long, to
Apostles, in which Jesus says (i) "I am the
true vine," (ii) the world will hate them, (iii)
the Spirit will guide them to all truth, (iv)
after he leaves, their pain will turn into joy,
(v) he is going to the Father.
After the last discourse, John records Jesus'
first prayer for Apostles. Jesus prays Father
to protect them, they may be one so that the
world will know that Father has loved them,
including those who will believe Apostles'
words, as Father has loved Jesus.
One of the earliest attempts to reconcile the
four Gospels is Tatian's diatessaron (Greek:
According to Four), which reshuffles the
texts of the four Gospels so that the narrative
may be in a more chronological order.
Jesus rises from suppler and washes the feet
Diatessaron of Apostles (Section 44), but this ritual
occurs before the Last Supper. (Section 45)
At the Last Supper, Jesus predicts one of
them will betray him. Judas askes, "Can it be
I?" and Jesus replies "You have said." Tatian
then follows John's sequence of events, the
last discourse and his prayer for Apostles.
A Plausible Order of Events
(1) A Dispute This dispute is likely to have taken place in
among Apostles the absence of Jesus. Peter and John were
sent to prepare for the Passover in John
Mark's upper room or guestchamber. In the
evening, Jesus and the twelve came in the
evening. A dispute may have arisen among
Apostles while Jesus was talking to the host.
Judas is present.
The main purpose is to teach Apostles to
serve one another, insteading of arguing
(2) Washing of who is the greatest. Salome earlier visited
Feet Jesus and asked for preference, and this
event may have touched off the dispute.
Judas is present.
In the course of the meal ("while they sat
and did eat"), Jesus predicts Judas will
betray him. When Judas asks, "Is it I?,"
Jesus replies, "You have said." Later, he
encourages Judas to do quickly what he
intended to do, and Judas leaves the upper
Then Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper.
They were eating bread and drinking wine a
few times throughout the meal. (Wine First)
Jesus is likely to have started this only ritual
with the cup, and everyone drank from the
same cup. This was then followed by his
breaking of a loaf of bread, and giving it to
Luke says Jesus took a cup, blessed and
gave it to Apostles, saying "This is my
blood," and then broke bread.
In Mark, Matthew and Diatessaron, this
sequence is reversed.
Mark says "as they did eat, Jesus took
bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to
them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
And he took the cup, and when he had given
thanks, he gave it to them: and they all
drank of it."
John skips it altogether, because his purpose
was to supplement what is missing in the
The most historically accurate rendition of
the Last Supper is two of Nicholas Poussin's
paintings. In terms of superb color and the
mood depicted, the one in the National
Gallery of Scotland in Edinborough is
superb. It is worth a special trip, if you
really want to see the glory of what it was
Nicholas like during the Last Supper.
This painting from Olga's Gallery
sin35.html ) seems to be an earlier rendition,
almost a practice. Nevertheless, this as well
as the other in Edinborough accurately
describes the furniture (tricline) and posture
of the Apostles. Tricline is a Roman,
squarish U-shaped divan or sofa. On the
exterior of all three sides (hence tri) dining
guests recline (hence cline). The open side
is for servants to serve food, and in this
painting the servant is leaving the room on
the left side of the room.
Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. Famous,
but grossly inaccurate. Jesus and the Twelve
reclined, unlike the Western people sitting
at the table as in this painting. This table
was not a Roman furniture.
Meisters des Hausbuchs, Das Abentmahl.
Again, the same type of mistake is made
here. Notice, everybody, except Judas, has a
halo around their heads.
On the Arcadian Theme
Copy of Nicholas Poussin's Et in Arcadia
by Elsie Russell
Net in Arcadia: The Virtual Museum of Contemporary Classicism
"Et in Arcadia" is Nicolas Poussin's elegiac meditation on a Latin phrase
found in Virgil's fifth eclogue that translates literally as "Even in Arcady,
there am I," or "Death is even in Arcady," but has been interpreted in
various ways through the ages. Erwin Panofsky treats the phrase, and
Poussin's possible interpretation, in depth in his "Meaning and the Visual
Arts." The inscription is discovered on a tomb by a group of shepherds and
absorbs them in contemplation of the idea of mortality, a concept they
seem to understand with Stoic resignation
The term "Arcadian" has gone through many transformations through
the ages as well. A native race of the wild hills of the Peloponnesos in
southern Greece, the Arcadians were "a tribe older than the moon"
certainly pre-dating the Dorian invasions, or "the birth of Jupiter" and
the establishment of the Olympian Pantheon. According to Curtis N.
Runnels in the March 1995 issue of Scientific American they may have
inhabited the area as early as 50,000 years ago causing, through
millennia of poor land management, the severe erosion that created the
wasteland of dry shrubs and rocks we visit today. The popular term
"Arcadian," describes a utopian garden paradise where serene pastoral
folk drink, dance and lounge around in an endless summer. It is here in
this untroubled land that Nicolas Poussin's shepherds first encounter
the solemn reality that all things must pass.
This atmosphere of nostalgia in Utopia has survived as the
philosopher's definition of "Arcadia," leaving behind a vital and ancient
tapestry of folklore. In the reality of mythological Arcadia there were
many terrifying dangers, the least of which was death, for its vast
population of nymphs, dryads, naiads, satyrs, fauns, Cyclops and lesser
gods such as Pan and occasionally Dionysus. Perhaps it was these
disenfranchised deities who brought with them the carpet of lush
vegetation that transformed the rocky wasteland into the wild and crazy
playground of Ovid's "Metamorphoses". In a sense, classical Arcadia
was never a Utopia, and its character is as complex and mysterious as
the human psyche.
It may indeed be the place where the clear and rational Olympians
banished those untamed and unnamable qualities, far from the ordered
hierarchies needed by a dynasty of tyrannical sky-gods. Arcadia is then
the anarchist state inhabited by uncontrollable misfits where Pan keeps
vigil over his domain, scaring away rational beings with his unearthly
howls and screeches. Maybe Poussin's painting has more of a lesson
than even he realized. Death is not in Arcadia, because the wasteland of
Arcadia, like the subconscious, like the moon, like cyberspace, is the
realm of the imagination, where all things are possible.
Elsie Russell 6/2/95
Back to Net in Arcadia: The Virtual Museum of Contemporary Classicism
The Winter's Tale -
Here are three paintings on pastoral themes, or on mythical themes associated with pastoral. One
is earlier, two are later than Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. None is an illustration of the play,
but each resonates with aspects of the play's images, ideas, scenes, sections of dialogue. Read the
descriptions and click on the images to see the larger version. Briefly (two or three sentences
should do it) relate an image in one of the paintings to a comparable feature of The Winter's Tale.
E-mail your Workbook response to your preceptor, and use it as a stage in writing your Essay.
Nicholas Poussin, Et in Arcadia Ego, 1630s
The shepherds and shepherdess in this painting (1630s) by Nicholas
Poussin have just come across a tombstone, on which they read the
inscription, "Et in Arcadia ego." This can be translated as "I too am
present in Arcadia" or " I am present even in Arcadia" (Arcadia is the
traditional name for the idealized landscape of pastoral). The identity
of the inscription's "ego" or "I" is made plain by the skull on top of
the tombstone. (Click on the detail to see the inscription and the skull
.) The shepherds react with shocked urgency to this revelation about
the transitoriness of human happiness. Even in pastoral's ideal
landscape, we are reminded of our mortal limits. (See posting ,
12/1/97, on Newsgroup, from L. Danson.)
Nicholas Poussin, A Dance to the Music of Time, 1639
Time (at the right of the painting, playing a lyre) makes the
music to which the four figures dance. The dancers have
been variously interpreted: as the four seasons, in their
endless round, or as four states of human life. Two putti
(little cherubic figures) sit in the foreground: one holds an
hourglass, the other blows a bubble, indicating the ephemeral
character of happiness. The statue at the far left is Janus, the
two-faced Roman god. For our purposes, we might say that
he suggests two different ways of thinking about Time: its
passing tells us that all things, good and bad, come to an end;
in its cyclical aspect, it is a dance, in which all things are
Botticelli, Primavera (c. 1482)
Reading this great painting from right to left, we find
Zephyr (the West Wind) transforming his bride,Chloris
(the second figure on the right), into Flora (the third
figure). Flora, associated with flowers and flowering, is
springtime, Primavera, itself. Next to Flora is Venus
with Cupid above her. This is the "good" Venus of
harmony and married love (we know that from her
matronly posture) rather than the "bad" Venus of lust.
Next to her, dancing in an endless circle, are the Three
Graces. The traditional figures have been variously
interpreted: in Botticelli's painting they may represent
Chastity (the one with her back to us), Beauty, and
Pleasure. The Dance of the Three Graces can also be a
figure of the harmonious circle of true generosity:
giving, receiving, and giving again in the dance of
reciprocity. The figure at the left is Mercury. It's hard to
see, but he's got a wand (the "caduceus") and with it he
is dispelling clouds that block Love's view of the highest
ideal sphere. In this painting, the erotic power signified
by Venus is harmonized with the yearly cycle and the
fruitfulness of spring.
Romulus was King of Rome 753-715 B.C.
Most of what we know of the early history of Rome comes from Plutarch's Lives and
Livy's History of Rome. They wrote much later and their stories are mixed with legend.
How much is uncertain. It is clear that there were Kings in Rome and that they were not
hereditary. They were chosen by the Comitia Curiata, a group of leaders in the
community. This institution later developed into the Senate. The traditional dates for the
Roman kings are almost certainly incorrect, and so dates will be omitted.
Sometimes there are conflicting legends, though later Romans have attempted to
reconcile them. One legend has it that before the founding of Rome there was a thriving
city at Alba Longa, ruled by Kings. It was founded by the son of Aeneas, a survivor of
the Trojan War, and the son of Venus and a highborn Trojan. It is in this city that the
legendary founder of Rome, Romulus, and his brother Remus were born.
Their grandfather Amulius was then king of Alban Longa. He was overthrown by his
brother Numitor, who made Amulius's only child, a daughter, a Vestal Virgin to prevent
her from having children (the Vestal Virgins were sworn to celibacy). Livy tells the story
of the remarkable birth of Romulus and Remus:
The Vestal was forcibly violated and gave birth to twins. She named Mars as their
father, either because she really believed it, or because the fault might appear less
heinous if a deity were the cause of it. But neither gods nor men sheltered her or her
babes from the king's cruelty; the priestess was thrown into prison, the boys were
ordered to be thrown into the river. By a heaven-sent chance it happened that the Tiber
was then overflowing its banks, and stretches of standing water prevented any
approach to the main channel. Those who were carrying the children expected that this
stagnant water would be sufficient to drown them, so under the impression that they
were carrying out the king's orders they exposed the boys at the nearest point of the
overflow, where the Ficus Ruminalis (said to have been formerly called Romularis) now
stands. The locality was then a wild solitude. The tradition goes on to say that after the
floating cradle in which the boys had been exposed had been left by the retreating water
on dry land, a thirsty she-wolf from the surrounding hills, attracted by the crying of the
children, came to them, gave them her teats to suck and was so gentle towards them
that the king's flock-master found her licking the boys with her tongue. According to the
story, his name was Faustulus. He took the children to his hut and gave them to his wife
Larentia to bring up. History of Rome, Book 1
When grown Romulus founded the city of Rome.
Nicholas Poussin's Rape of the Sabine Women 1637 (Metropolitan Museum of
Livy tells another story about Romulus in the story of "The Rape of the Sabine Women."
It seems that Romulus needed wives for the men who had joined his city.
The Roman state had become strong enough to hold its own in war with all the peoples
along its borders, but a shortage of women meant that its greatness was fated to last for
a single generation, since there was no prospect of offspring at home nor any prospect
of marriage with their neighbors. Then, in accordance with the decision of the senate,
Romulus sent messengers to the neighboring peoples to ask for alliance and the right of
marriage for the new people. . . But nowhere were the emissaries given a fair hearing.
Some scorned, others feared the great power growing in their midst, both for
themselves and for their descendants. . . Romulus, to gain time till he found the right
occasion, hid his concern and prepared to celebrate the Consualia, the solemn games
in honor of equestrian Neptune. He then ordered that the spectacle be announced to
the neighboring peoples. He gave the event great publicity by the most lavish means
possible in those days. Many people came, some simply out of curiosity to see the new
city, and especially the nearest neighbor, from Caenina, Crustuminum and Antemnae;
the entire Sabine population came, wives and children included. Received with
hospitality in the houses, after having seen the position of the city, its walls, and the
large number of buildings, they marveled that Rome had grown so fast. When it was
time for the show, and everybody was concentrating on this, a prearranged signal was
given and all the Roman youths began to grab the women. Many just snatched the
nearest woman to hand, but the most beautiful had already been reserved for the
senators and these were escorted to the senators' houses by plebeians who had been
given this assignment.
The Romans drove off the men, and took the women for their wives. The Sabine men
did not give in so easily however. There was war between the Romans and the Sabines
led by their king Titus Tatius. It was the women who finally brought peace to Rome.
They persuaded their fathers not to fight their new husbands and the Romans accepted
Titus Tatius as joint ruler with Romulus.
Romulus disappeard one day in a thunder storm. He appeared in a vision to Julius
Proculus who told him that he had ascended to the gods and was to be worshipped as
The Dogma of the Assumption
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Assumption of the Virgin, by Nicholas Poussin
Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII issued November 1, 1950
1. The most bountiful God, who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon
wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind, the sorrows of
peoples and of individual men by means of joys that he interposes in their lives from
time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all
things may work together unto good for those who love him.
2. Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many
cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place
and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue.
Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being
professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is
flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is
showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed Virgin is
fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those
redeemed by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being
vigorously aroused to a more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.
3. Actually God, who from all eternity regards Mary with a most favorable and unique
affection, has "when the fullness of time came" put the plan of his providence into
effect in such a way that all the privileges and prerogatives he had granted to her in his
sovereign generosity were to shine forth in her in a kind of perfect harmony. And,
although the Church has always recognized this supreme generosity and the perfect
harmony of graces and has daily studied them more and more throughout the course
of the centuries, still it is in our own age that the privilege of the bodily Assumption
into heaven of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has certainly shone forth more
Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665)
Born in Les Andelys, Normandy, and active in Paris from 1612 to 1623,
Poussin, like many European artists of his generation, was drawn to Rome.
He arrived there in 1624 an unformed painter, but would become a central
figure for the Roman and European art of his time—despite the fact that he
defined himself against the prevailing Baroque tastes of his adopted city and
steadfastly followed his own artistic path. Poussin brought a new intellectual
rigor to the classical impulse in art, as well as a unique, somewhat reticent
poetry. His sensitivity to the nuances of gesture, design, color, and handling,
which he varied according to the theme at hand, permitted him to bring a very
focused expression to his art and to create for each narrative a memorable
and enduring form. The wide range of his oeuvre includes scenes of subdued
tenderness, bacchic revelry, mourning, righteous civic virtue, and other more
difficult to identify states of mind or being.
In Rome, Poussin was welcomed into the lively group of intellectuals centered
around Cassiano dal Pozzo, the remarkable archaeologist, philosopher, and
naturalist employed by the Barberini family. Cassiano became Poussin's
close friend and patron, as well as a link to other well-placed collectors. His
intense curiosity about the lives and thought of the early Greeks and Romans,
and his dedication to recording the monuments of their civilization, would
exert a strong influence on the young painter.
In 1628, with Cassiano's help, Poussin received his only papal commission.
The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus, painted for the Church of Saint Peter (now
Vatican Museums)—one of his largest and most Baroque compositions—was
coolly received, and was followed by the loss of an important commission for
the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. At this point it became clear to Poussin
that he would not be sought out to decorate the churches and palaces of
Counter-Reformation Rome, and that this was not, in fact, where his real
strength lay. The large, theatrical saints in ecstasy and scenes of apotheosis
so popular at the time clearly struck no responsive chord in Poussin, and with
remarkable vision and determination he set off in his own direction. Within the
circle of Cassiano and for a small group of discerning patrons in France, he
gradually developed an audience for the paintings of relatively modest size—
rationally ordered, subdued, often exquisitely poetic works—for which he is
now so well known.
Poussin's Subject Matter
A man of extraordinary learning and intellectual sophistication in his own
right, Poussin played a significant role in the choice of subject for many of his
private commissions. Some are themes of his own invention or subjects that
no previous artist chose to depict; frequently his paintings carry a moral or
philosophical message, or draw attention to man's precarious position in the
universe. They are inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses, ancient history, certain
stories from the Old Testament, and—late in his career—the seven
Sacraments (The Confirmation, from the series of The Seven Sacraments,
Collection of the Duke of Rutland, Belvoir Castle) conceived within the early
Christian church. Toward the end of his life, he would create a group of
transcendent landscapes with Stoical themes, including four paintings
representing the Seasons, now in the Louvre, Paris. All of these subjects he
painted with extraordinary empathy and near-identification. Although they
might suggest conflicting systems of belief—Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Stoic,
Pantheistic—Poussin seems to have taken on each type of narrative as an
even-handed, respectful interpreter, representing each as a product of human
culture and history and of our essential need to create order out of what might
seem chaos. These pictures appear to be about "faith" as a phenomenon as
much as they are about a particular faith.
During his first years in Rome, Poussin sampled many different artistic styles,
but he chose his influences carefully. He was clearly impressed by the
paintings of the great Venetian colorist Titian (ca. 1488–1576), as well as by
the friezes he found on Greco-Roman tombs. The wonderful little Rest on the
Flight into Egypt (1997.117.6) may date as early as 1627 and reveals a clear
debt to Titian. The playful horde of putti, the highly keyed reds, blues, and
whites of the Virgin's robe, and the intensely blue sky—as well as the
optimistic spirit of the picture as a whole—reveal Poussin's admiration for
Titian's Bacchanals, then in the Aldobrandini collection in Rome. What
Poussin brings to the picture that we would not expect to find in a similar work
by Titian is its intimacy (due in part to the small scale) and a very tender
The first painting by Poussin to be acquired by an American museum, Midas
Washing at the Source of the Pactolus (1624; 71.56), is one of many works
by the artist inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses. The painterly handling is
typical of Poussin's earlier works and a stark contrast to the cleanly drawn
and regimentally ordered pictures from his middle years such as The
Abduction of the Sabine Women (ca. 1633–34; 46.160). The composition of
the Midas is beautifully and subtly laid out; it is deeply satisfying but does not
call attention to itself. The same can be said for the picture's subdued palette
and fluid brushwork. In comparison to the dazzling altarpieces of his Baroque
contemporaries, this painting is a "soft sell," and reveals the independence of
Poussin's eye and mind. The story of Midas, the unfortunate king who asked
Bacchus that all he touched be turned to gold, carries with it the aura of the
earth at an earlier stage of development so common in Poussin's
mythological scenes, but also suggests—in its questioning of material
wealth—the Stoicism that figures prominently in the artist's later work and that
was a true reflection of his character and way of life.
Tasso's epic poem about the Crusades, Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem
Liberated), completed in 1575, was the source for a group of Poussin's
canvases from the early 1530s. These paintings have the gentle, otherworldly
quality of a fairy tale—in spite of the fact that for Poussin, the appeal of the
subject seems to have been the conflict between pleasure (or enchantment)
and duty (the Crusades). In The Companions of Rinaldo (1977.1.2), a picture
once owned by Cassiano dal Pozzo, Rinaldo is out of sight in the lair of the
sorceress Armida, and his companions, Carlo and Ubaldo, have come to
rescue him from temptation and recall him to duty and more manly
adventures. They have been ferried to the "Fortunate Isles" in the exotic little
boat in the background, modeled after a similar vessel the artist must have
known from a Roman sarcophagus. Their movements are exquisitely
graceful, yet somehow tentative (they are hardly figures of impulsive
determination), and the startling blue and copper of their costumes adds to
the richness of their characterization. These fine young men, like so many of
Poussin's figures, seem to be poised for all time just so, frozen in pursuit, and
this is part of their poignant charm.
It was not unusual for the artist to paint several versions of a subject,
rethinking the composition and the expressive quality of the picture in the
process; this was the case with Poussin's two paintings of The Abduction of
the Sabine Women (ca. 1633), which have been described as scenes of
"subdued mayhem." Both paintings, with their powerfully opposing diagonals,
are examples of the vigorous and assertive style that Poussin adopted for
many of his scenes from ancient history. In what appears to be the earlier
version (ca. 1633–34; 46.160), in the Metropolitan Museum, he has dispersed
the figures in several friezelike planes parallel to the foreground, and the
architecture seems to stop the eye from moving back into the distance. In the
version in the Louvre, from about 1637, the artist draws our eye into the
distance with diagonals created by the architecture on the right, and he has
taken pains to develop groups of figures here and there that introduce
random diagonal elements into the center of the composition and bring a
breath of fresh air to the tightly structured scene. It was to aid in the creation
of such complex and carefully organized narratives that Poussin probably
used the small stages with wax figures and painstakingly arranged draperies
described by his contemporaries.
Poussin may well have used such a stage to plan the rigorous composition of
Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man (24.45.2), a painting from about
1655 that shows the artist responding to the imposing and solid classicism of
Raphael's The School of Athens, a fresco of 1509 for the Stanza della
Segnatura (Vatican, Rome). Raphael's masterpiece was the source for a
compositional type that Poussin returned to again and again, manipulating
the conventions of classical art: the draped figures, rhetorical gestures, and
architecture. Here these components are pared down to their most minimal,
unadorned aspect. In a mute performance, the figures sit, stand, turn from
and face us, gesturing expressively as they enact the narrative. With each
painterly adjustment or formal decision, however, we sense the remarkable
authority and spirit of invention that the artist brings to the sometimes rigid
confines of the classical idiom. The intense blues, golds, and oranges
employed here were inspired by the highly saturated colors discovered in
Roman wall paintings by contemporary archaeologists.
Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun (24.45.1), from 1658, is among
Poussin's late masterpieces, and intuitive rather than systematic in design.
The artist appears to have surrendered control and lapsed momentarily in his
love of order and geometry, permitting his imagination to lead him. There is,
nevertheless, a sureness to the composition that reveals the master hand and
mind at work. Poussin apparently followed Natalis Comes's sixteenth-century
commentary on the story of Orion, which gives a meteorological interpretation
of the myth. Beyond the specific roles played by the main characters—the
giant Orion, Cedalion on his shoulders, and Diana in the clouds—the image
of a blind and clearly vulnerable giant feeling his way across a vast primeval
landscape with the aid of several benevolent smaller figures is extraordinarily
touching. We know that he will find the rising sun and regain his sight with
their help. In the midst of a pagan landscape, there is a sense that, beyond
the myth of Orion, we may also be dealing with something approximating a
vision of earthly as opposed to heavenly salvation, or the struggle of each
individual human being to find his way. Poussin's sight was weakening during
the years he produced his late landscapes, and they have an almost pointillist
technique, which is particularly well suited to their subject matter.
In a letter to his close friend and patron Paul Fréart de Chantelou, Poussin
instructs us in appreciating his art. After hearing of Chantelou's
disappointment when he compared a more sober canvas he had just received
from the artist with a more sensuous and pleasing painting Poussin had made
for another French collector, the artist patiently explained to him that various
subjects made different demands on an artist, and required very different
expressive means to properly fulfill them. Just as the Greeks created "Modes"
to write music with a different spirit or mood for different contexts, Poussin
tells his friend, so he, in a similar manner pursued his art, always seeking the
design, handling, and formal means appropriate to a given subject. From
such remarks developed the "Theory of the Modes" that has been linked with
Poussin's name since the seventeenth century, and which helps us to
understand his artistic process. These remarks also reveal Poussin's unusual
self-awareness and his tendency to be analytical where his work was
Sometimes associated with an uncompromising, almost ascetic formalism,
Poussin's art is, in fact, a marriage of poetry and reason, sensibility and
intellect, a balance of two aspects of one character. Sometimes they sit
comfortably together in a finished work. Sometimes, in a particular painting,
intellect or sensibility might prevail to a lesser or greater degree, not with
unhappy consequences. We may even sense, in his more austere or sober
productions, a renunciation: of elegy, tenderness, the world of the senses.
One looks to these paintings as much to read the extraordinary character of
their creator, as for their beauty and interest as works of art.
Poussin's paintings would have a profound influence on many later artists, in
particular such classical and classicizing painters as Jacques-Louis David,
Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso.
Joshua, son of Nun, was Moses’ young assistant. Exodus (17: 8-16) tells the following
story: “The Amalekites came and attacked Israel at Rephidim.” Moses ordered Joshua to lead
the men into the battle. Joshua did as Moses commanded and "defeated Amalek and put its
people to the sword.”
After the death of Moses, Joshua took the leadership over Israelites and led his people to
take the lands, which God had promised to Israel. These events are described in The Book of
Joshua. "Many battles had the Israelites before they could settle in the Promised Land." One of
the battles, the battle and victory over Amorites, is described in The Book of Joshua (10). "The
five Amorite kings, the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, advanced with
their united forces to take up position for the attack on Gibeon." (Joshua 10:5). And the Lord said
to Joshua, 'Do not be afraid; I have delivered these kings into your hands, and not one of them
will be able to withstand you.' (Joshua 10:8). And Joshua spoke to the Lord and asked Him to
keep the sun in the sky until the end of the battle. And "the sun stayed in middleheaven and made
no haste to set for almost a whole day. never before or since has there been such a day as that on
which the Lord listened to the voice of a mortal. Surely the Lord fought for Israel!" (Joshua
10:13-14). After a night march, Joshua launched a surprise assault on the five kings, and the
Lord threw them into confusion before the Israelites. They started to flee through a mountain
pass, and the Lord hurled great hailstones at them out of the sky. That day victory was complete,
and the Israelites conquered the whole region of the Amorites - "the hill country, the Negeb, the
Shephelah, the watersheds - and all its kings." (Joshua 10:40).
The Plague at Ashdod
By 1630, Poussin was moving towards the uncompromising statements about the
moral condition of humanity that were to characterize his work. In that year he painted
the Plague of Ashdod (Louvre, Paris), which sets the style and mood of his work for the
next five years. The figures are interlocked in an extremely complex composition which
appears somewhat disorganized; in depicting the Old Testament theme, in which the
spectator is spared none of the horror, Poussin was trying to achieve accuracy. The
following year he painted the Empire of Flora (Dresden, Gemäldegalerie), a more
cheerful subject but with a similarly interlocking frieze of figures. It is round these two
pictures, datable through documents, that the rest of Poussin's pictures supposedly
painted around 1630 have to be grouped.
Nicolas Poussin’s The Seven Sacraments
The first thing you notice about this painting is how dark it is. Most other renditions of
this event are bright and vibrant, but I think the darkness does two things. 1. Shows the
reality of a supper in that time when there were no street lights, etc. 2. Gives an ominous
feeling to the setting. This is appropriate as this was a foreshadowing of the gruesome
crucifixion about to occur the next day. I really like this touch.
Second, I love the majestic yet solemn glow emanating from the lamp. It draws your
eyes straight to the Christ figure, who is seated with a very royal posture. As the others
around the table are all reclining - another excellent grasp of how the actual supper
would have looked - Jesus' upright posture makes Him stand out among the others. The
lighting makes Him glow and highlights His majesty all the more. It's somewhat subtle,
Finally, if you didn't count, there are only 11 disciples around the table. Judas is
sneaking out on the left. Hence, Jesus had probably just announced that He was about
to be betrayed. Judas sneaks out to get the job done. If this is the setting, then it explains
the looks of horror and melancholy displayed on the disciples' faces. I was taken aback
by sad, sullen, and surprised looks on their faces, especially the two to Christ's right,
who I presume to be Peter and John. I think that's a perfect touch.
It was hard to stand in this room, looking at this painting and the six around it, and not
feel a sense of reverence. The mighty, merciful, and horrific acts God has performed on
our behalf were loudly proclaimed in that little room. Our God is an awesome God, and
whenever something remind me of that, especially something with this amount of
beauty and solemnity, I can't help but pause in silent prayer. I think that is the point of
religious art, to point you towards the One who created and transcends such beauty.
For Paris intellectuals Poussin produced during the ten years after his return to
Rome the paintings which were regarded in his own time as his most perfect, and
which are now considered to be among the purest embodiments of French
classicism. To this group belong the second series of Sacraments, executed for Paul
Fréart de Chantelou, a civil servant, between 1644 and 1648.
The second series of Sacraments have a solemnity wholly lacking in the more
picturesque first series. This is perhaps most apparent in the Eucharist, one of
Poussin's most severe compositions. The scene is set in a room of the utmost
simplicity, without ornament, and articulated only with plain Doric pilasters. The
apostles are shown lying on couches round the table and are dressed in Roman
togas. The artist has chosen a moment which enables him to combine the two main
themes which the subject involves: the dramatic and the sacramental. Christ has
given the bread to the apostles and is about to bless the cup, but on the left of the
composition we see the figure of Judas leaving the room. That is to say, Poussin
represents primarily the institution of the Eucharist, but at the same time reminds the
spectator of Christ's words: 'One of you shall betray me'. The double theme is made
even clearer in the actions of the apostles, which are defined with great precision.
Some are engaged in eating the bread, others show their realization of the
significance of what is taking place by gestures of astonishment, while St John's
expression of sorrow shows that he is thinking of Christ's words about Judas.
Formally Poussin has concentrated his group into a symmetrical relief pattern. His
choice of a low view-point has enabled him to foreshorten the front apostles, so that
they form a compact group with those on the other side of the table.
This is one of the first set of Sacraments, painted for Cassiano dal Pozzo. The picture was the last of the set to be
completed, and is quite unlike the other surviving five.
Almost as soon as he arrived in Rome, Poussin was fortunate enough to come into contact with the scholarly and
benevolent Cassiano dal Pozzo, who was to be his patron for the next thirty years until his death in 1657. Their
relationship in its early years seems to have consisted mainly of Pozzo collecting a number of Poussin's first works,
almost out of charity for the struggling young artist, as the pictures were indeed of modest pretensions. In the later
1630s the catalyst for a development towards an extreme was undoubtedly Cassiano dal Pozzo, who commissioned
Poussin to paint his first set of Sacraments.
The dates of execution for this first set are unknown, but they were not completed until 1642, when the final one
was sent by Poussin from Paris to Rome. Cassiano owned a Poussin executed in the late 1630s, a Baptism of Christ
now in the Getty Museum at Malibu, and it may well have been this carefully calculated composition which spurred
Cassiano on to commission Poussin to create the Sacraments, one of the most important single commissions of his
career. The seven pictures, though executed over several years, were intended to be seen together, presumably in a
relatively small room. Five of them - Marriage, Extreme Unction, Confirmation, Ordination and Eucharist - are now at
Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, hung in different places in the house; the sixth, Baptism, is in the National Gallery of
Art, Washington; and the seventh, Penance, was lost in the fire which destroyed Belvoir in 1816. It is difficult to know
whether Poussin worked out his artistic theories after he had solved his problems on canvas, or whether he thought
in the abstract and tried to prove his point by painting to a chosen formula. Whatever the explanation, the result was
an extremely cerebral approach, epitomized by this first set of Sacraments.
In spite of his great rigidity of theory, and in spite of some very dry pictures in which there seems to be little feeling
of any kind, a surprisingly large number of Poussin's best pictures are tense with emotion. This is nowhere better
seen than in the first set of Sacraments: it is as if all Poussin's energies and ideas are concentrated in these relatively
The Sacraments, a microcosm of Poussin's art, reveal his working methods. It is known that he kept a small box
rather like a miniature theatre, in which he arranged wax models and altered the lighting in order to help him with the
layout of his complex compositions. He then made numerous rough drawings, trying out the compositions until the
final solution was reached. It is easy to see that all the interior scenes of the Sacraments are arranged like a
theatrical tableau, which gives them their curiously static quality and enhances their gravity.
1594 1594 - Nicolas Poussin and his adopted pupil-brother-in- law, Caspar
Dughet, are to be seen in the sixth cabinet. Nicolas Poussin was born in
1594, and is among the earliest Frenchmen of note. The story of his life is
well known: how he went to Rome, married a girl who ...
From The Art of the Dresden Gallery, Notes and Observations Upon the
Old … - Related web pages
1612 1612 - Nicolas Poussin: The father of French Classical painting, Nicolas
Poussin settled in Paris in 1612. He studied under various painters but
his primary influence were the paintings and engravings of Raphael and
his school and Roman statuary and reliefs housed in the royal ...
From Frederick Christian Lewis - Nicolas Poussin's Bacchanalia -
Related web pages
1624 1624 - 'Nicolas Poussin had wasted no time in the development of his gift
before he reached Rome, in 1624. Travel from city to city in France, study
under 30 NICOLAS POUSSIN Flemish and French artists, acquaintance
with courtiers, amateurs, and an Italian poet ...
From Full text of "Nicolas Poussin : his life and work" - Related web
1630 1630 - He became associated with Nicolas Poussin (whose surname he
adopted) at an early age because Poussin married Gaspard's sister,
Anne-Marie Dughet, in 1630. It is assumed that Gaspard was taught to
paint by his illustrious brother-in-law in the early 1630s, in ...
From Duplessis Joseph Siffrein Oil Painting Reproduction Tamsquare Art -
Related web pages
1640 1640 - In 1640, as part of a programme to initiate a new school of court
artists, Richelieu summoned Nicolas Poussin, the most renowned
French painter of the day, to Paris, and in the next year commissioned him
to paint two pictures for the Grand Cabinet of the Palais ...
From The World of the Favourite - Related web pages
1642 1642 - French Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin begins work on his
series of "Seven Sacraments," completed in 1642. Poussin's rational
classicism influenced pictorial classicism. Pietro da Cortona's ceiling
fresco in the Barberini Palace, Rome, imagines a sculptural ...
From A Timeline of Vermeer's Life - 1632-1640 Childhood - Related web
1657 1657 - After studying with French painter Simon Vouet, Mignard worked
for 21 years in Italy, his style based on that of French painter Nicolas
Poussin. He returned to Paris in 1657. His portraits have a mannered
elegance; for example, Madame de Montespan (Troyes) and Marquise de
From Pierre Mignard - MSN Encarta - Related web pages
1665 1665 - Coincidentally, in 1665, the same year in which Nicolas Fouquet
was imprisoned, Nicolas Poussin died. For the next twenty years, King
Louis jockeyed for possession of what he regarded as Poussin's most
important work: The Shepherds of Arcadia. When he finally ...
From TRACYRTWYMAN.COM » Nicolas Poussin and Nicolas Fouquet -
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1748 1748 - The marble tablet, commissioned in 1748, features a carved image
of a painting by French 17th century artist Nicolas Poussin, with the
letters "DOUOSVAVVM" underneath. According to popular legend, the
code revealed the whereabouts of the Holy Grail, in ...
From Mysterious code finally cracked - Related web pages
2008 Feb 17, 2008 - Perhaps it's my mood or the frigid time of year, but the
message I received from the Met's new show of Nicolas Poussin
landscapes is that death lurks ... Simply imitating topographies of fields
and flowers didn't interest Nicolas Poussin, who wanted to elevate and
enhance what he saw. ...
From … death lends a dark tone to the landscapes of Nicolas Poussin at
the Met - Related web pages
Nicolas Poussin: The Death of Germanicus
Some critics consider The Death of Germanicus (painted in 1627,
in France, hanging in the The Minneapolis Institute of Arts),
Nicolas Poussin’s early masterpiece. The painting presents a
linear, barelief-like scene with several emotional pivots, all
induced by the death of the Roman general (read full Britannica
article on Germanicus Julius Caesar). Lying on the bed and
enshrouded in white, he is immediately recognized; the ghastly
greenish tone of his face implies poisoning, the most probable
cause of death according to historians.
The Death of Germanicus, 1627
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Heroic gestures and stoic facial expressions, including that of
Germanicus himself, decide the emotional current of the central
scene, where the general and his officers are having a last words
moment. Two less forceful, though just as passionate scenes,
enframe the central act with poignant resignation and sorrow –
and diffuse the intensity in the center. Each of the groups
contains its own dynamic and emotive tone; the women and the
children near the bedside are particularly notable for adding a
shade of naïve surprise (by the children) and compassion. The
resulting visual-emotional scheme of an enclosed A-B-A
structure provides compositional harmony and completeness.
Both eventually translate into an aesthetic quality.
Nicolas Poussin, Self-Por…
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Pikes play manifold roles in the composition. Bursting from the
single-block group of mourners, they resemble, as a visual
metaphor, solar ejections: the telling signs of the tremendous
heat and pressure within. On the other hand, their sharp and
edgy tips also become a sublimation of the suffering below – and
yet the same instruments deal and bring death, the very same
theme of the painting. The slender shafts may further allude to
the precariousness of the future political situation (which, once
again, is decided by the same spears). Finally, the way they
pierce the space above the legionnaires is abstractly suggestive
of the inflicted pain on the dying man.
Apollo in Love with Daphne, 1664; Pou…
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The spacious and hollow grandeur of the interior seems to
alienate itself from the tragic proceedings. But, this empty
monochrome space calmly overseeing the scene also adds a
touch of objectivity necessary to bring out the historical
significance of Germanicus’ death – or, indeed, its historicity on
Poussin (read Britannica full article on Nicolas Poussin) is known
to had deliberately replicated ancient costumes, furniture and
architecture. By giving these props a special attention in this
painting he reminds us of the strict factual data – the time and
era of the depicted occurrence – which may have become
blurred in the emotionality and the chamber-intimate
atmosphere (perhaps echoing Rembrandt) immediately inside
Nicolas Poussin: Gathering of Manna
Gathering of Manna is a large scale mythological painting
(hanging in Louvre Museum, Paris) that conveys the dramatic
force of the biblical divine act of the distribution of the Manna.
The canvas aims to depict an entire people by showing groups of
representative actors of both sexes and all ages. In a way, the
scene is a rare occurrence: everyone is an active participant, as
everyone must participate in order to survive; there is no room
for psychological ambivalence. By choosing a theme with a
secured engrossing dramatic impulse, Poussin might have
attempted to explore pantheistic and holistic ideas (and ideals)
of the relationship of all humanity with God. The Gathering of
Manna is a unique case of reverse offering, which reinforces the
symbiotic nature of that relationship.
The Gathering of Manna, circa 1637-9
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The people are divided into several groups, each including actors
that either collect, wonder, examine, or even fight for the
Manna. The most consistently reappearing sentiment is of
praising God with a characteristic thankful folding of the hands.
By showing a range of emotions and activities Poussin credibly
anchors a divine act in concrete reality and action. Regardless of
what the people are doing, they are busy, and even the
expressions of surprise seem as a matter-of-fact, inevitable
reactions; this is a drama but not a melodrama.
The Gathering of Manna, c…
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Contrasts of small and enormous – more concretely of people
and nature around them – constitute the “engine” of the scene.
Most contrasts consist of oppositions of color – the small bright
red patches of the cloaks and the dark, spreading ambiance, and
of form – small human figures against oversized landscape
masses of stones and trees. The red spots also refer to blood,
and the fragility of human life – as opposed to the sombre,
immovable and imperious landscape masses. It becomes obvious
that the life of the depicted people (and life itself) is at the
mercy of nature – and God, as the bible narrates.
Gathering of the Manna, f…
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Interestingly, Poussin makes the Manna almost invisible
(minuscule white dots), effectively forcing many of the actors to
grab air. This method of depicting the Manna may have several
interpretations and meanings. First, this could be an
ironical/parody device that expresses doubts in the miracle.
Second, this (the entire painting) could be a test of the viewers’
faith – did the Israelites themselves imagine the whole thing, did
the bible say the truth, or, perhaps, is it the viewers who cannot
discern the Manna, but must believe? Third, this simply could be
an ingenious pictorial solution to portray a substance of which
was, and still is, little known.
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), one of the greatest French painters, rationally synthesized the
diverse tendencies of French and Italian art. His work is a salient example of lucid control by the
mind over the senses.
The art of Nicolas Poussin is a visual record of progression from the chaos of youth to self-
awareness, from self-control to intellectualism, and from wisdom to harmony. In the 19th
century Paul Cézanne conferred the ultimate tribute: "Every time I come away from Poussin I
know better who I am."
Poussin was born in the hamlet of Villers near Les Andelys, Normandy, in June 1594. His father,
who had certain claims to ancient but minor nobility, came from Soissons; he was a military man
turned farmer. His mother was the widow of a lawyer, and Nicolas was destined for the law. The
boy, who knew Latin from childhood, received a sound education until he was 18. His proclivity
for art provoked the disapproval of his parents, and in 1612 the presence of Quentin Varin, a
minor mannerist painter, in the neighborhood occasioned Poussin's flight from home.
After a brief sojourn with the painter Noël Jouvenet in Rouen, Poussin went to Paris, where the
patronage of a young nobleman from Poitou enabled him to frequent the studios of the portraitist
Ferdinand Elle and the mannerist painter Georges Lallemand. About 1614 his noble friend took
Poussin home to his château in Poitou, but his patron's mother did not like the alliance, and the
artist departed on foot, reaching Paris exhausted and ill from malnutrition. After a year's rest with
his family at Les Andelys, Poussin returned to Paris to begin a productive career.
Except for a trip to Florence about 1620-1621 and another to Lyons shortly thereafter, Poussin
spent the years between about 1616 and 1624 establishing his position in Paris. He studied
architecture, perspective, and anatomy; the mannerist frescoes of Francesco Primaticcio at
Fontainebleau; antique sculpture; and the High Renaissance paintings of Raphael, Leonardo da
Vinci, and Titian and the engravings of Giulio Romano. He frequented intellectual and artistic
circles and met the Italian poet Giambattista Marino, for whom he executed a series known as
the Massimi drawings. Poussin received commissions from the Jesuit Collège de Clermont in
Paris and Notre Dame in Paris. When he left for Rome in 1624, he was a mature artist. On the
way he stopped in Venice, where the works of Titian and Paolo Veronese profoundly influenced
Between 1624 and 1630 Poussin's life was characterized by professional vicissitudes and artistic
experimentation. He vacillated, though always brilliantly, between his Paris style, based upon the
study of Giulio Romano and antique sarcophagi (Victory of Moses, 1624-1626), the current
Roman baroque style of Pietro da Cortona (Madonna del Pilar), the Venetian High Renaissance
style of Veronese (Marriage of St. Catherine) and Titian (The Inspiration of the Poet), and the
realistic style of Caravaggio (Massacre of the Innocents). The conspicuous success of this period
was the Martyrdom of St. Erasmus (1628-1629) for an altar in St. Peter's.
In spite of the patronage of the Barberini family, the confusion resulting from Poussin seeking
his own style among the multiple possibilities afforded him in Rome and the fierce competition
of Italian, Flemish, and French artists resulted in another illness. After being nursed back to
health in the house of the French pastry cook Jacques Dughet, he married the daughter Anne
Marie in 1630. Poussin decided to abandon the field of official commissions, and from then on
he devoted himself exclusively to the execution of small cabinet pictures, fastidious in
workmanship, for a private and cultivated clientele.
In the 1630s friendship with Cassiano dal Pozzo, amateur of the antique, led Poussin into a
milieu of modest but genuine scholars. At this time his concern was poetical, focused upon the
dramatic themes of Tasso (Rinaldo and Armida) and the melancholy of Ovid (Arcadian
Shepherds). Between 1633 and 1637 his subject matter shifted to the pageantry of the Old
Testament (Adoration of the Magi), mythology (Bacchanals for Cardinal Richelieu, and ancient
history (Rape of the Sabines, two versions). During this time the coloristic fluidity of Titian,
which had characterized Poussin's previous period, gave way to a statuesque plasticity of figure
style, recalling Raphael's Mass of Bolsena. Compositions were oriented parallel to the picture
plane and delineated by a controlled, linear perspective.
Between 1637 and 1640 this rational tendency increased. Poussin used various pictorial methods
of painting to elicit a specific response in the educated observer, trained to understand his
expressive purpose in any given work. These were the ancient Greek and Roman modes. His
earlier works had been mainly in the Hypolydian mode for joyful subjects of divine glory and
paradise and the lonic mode for festive, bacchanalian subject matter. Now they became more
austere, in the Dorian mode for stable, grave, and severe themes (The Israelites Collecting
Manna); or martial, in the Phrygian mode for intense and violent themes. Poussin's fondness for
the modes was motivated, according to his letter of Nov. 24, 1647, to P. F. de Chantelou, by a
desire for didactic clarity in communication. For the sake of readability his compositions, from
the late 1630s, were cautiously planned, the figures sculpturally modeled, the tones restricted to
primary colors insistently repeated, and the psychological content underlined by emphatic,
sometimes histrionic gesture and facial expression.
Return to Paris, 1640-1642
Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu had been urging Poussin's return to Paris since 1638, and in
1640 he did so. He was given the title of first painter to the king, a yearly pension, and lodging in
a pavilion of the Tuileries Palace. His princely reception provoked the resentment of the artistic
coterie. The official circle expected him to create a French "style" and be able to direct teams of
artists and artisans. But Poussin was used to a contemplative atmosphere and to concentrating on
a single, meticulously executed work, and the constant demand for adaptability and glib fluency
in the creation of altarpieces, decorative ceilings, and designs for books, tapestries, and furniture
was exhausting. Of his many Paris works the best products of that unhappy sojourn were the
decorative schemes for the ceilings of the Orangerie in the Luxembourg Palace and for the
Grande Galerie of the Louvre.
Mature Period, 1643-1653
In September 1642 Poussin returned to Rome, ostensibly to fetch his wife; Richelieu and Louis
XIII died soon after Poussin reached Rome, enabling him to remain in his adopted country
permanently. He passed the rest of his life modestly and placidly in his house in the Via Paolina,
refusing countless honors, including the directorship of the Academy of St. Luke. The most
important fruit of his Paris visit was a patronage truly worthy of his talents. Intellectual
conservatives of the French upper bourgeoisie, like Chantelou, called forth, through their
commissions, the best of the artist's talents, the embodiment of the French classical ideal.
Between 1643 and 1653 Poussin came to grips with the fundamental premise of his creative
being, the triumph of human will over the passions, manifest in his works in the domination of
intellect over emotion. The Holy Family on the Steps (1648), for example, reveals his rational
procedure for achieving biblical truth. The observer is infallibly guided, through the selective
simplicity and lucid formality of the essential compositional elements, to the climax of the
representation, the enthronement of a nobly modest family on monumental stairs, and to the
denouement, the movement of the Holy Family toward the observer.
In executing his works Poussin proceeded in the following manner. After a thorough reading of
the primary sources, he made a preliminary sketch; he then constructed a small model stage upon
which he could move, like chessmen, actual miniature figures made of wax. After making further
drawings and altering the positions of the figures as he progressed, he made larger models. From
these he painted the final scene, referring occasionally to living models to avoid sterility. Thus,
by steady, almost pedestrian degrees the potentially dramatic theme was simplified to a lofty
understatement. Such laborious procedures, dangerously susceptible to stereotyping by imitators,
were adopted until 1690 for teaching purposes by Charles Le Brun in the Paris academic
program; they also explain the objection, among even cultivated critics, to Poussin's not
infrequent statuesque sterility and coloristic coldness in the works of his mature period.
Late Period, 1653-1665
In Poussin's late period he moved beyond the somewhat self-conscious and mechanical means
just described. The triumph of human will over the passions, or intellect over emotion, became
an ultimate statement of the reign of universal harmony over the seeming chaos of nature and
human life. This final conviction is most telling in such works as Apollo and Daphne (1664),
sometimes called his spiritual testament to the world, and Summer and Autumn, two of the cycle
of the four seasons (1660-1664). Figures are set in wildly animated landscapes of fertility or
desolation, forms are reduced to nearly cubistic abstraction, and action is drastically simplified.
Poussin died in Rome on Nov. 19, 1665.
Joshua was successor to Moses, who led the Israelites through the Desert and into the Promised
Palestine, however, was not uninhabited. According to the Old Testament a local tribe, the
Amorites, lived on the east bank of the River Jordan and in the region between the Dead Sea and
Presumably the largest population group in the land Canaan, as Palestine was known, the
Amorites were defeated by Joshua in a series of battles.
In the late 1640s and early 1650s, at the height of his artistic maturity, Nicolas Poussin turned
from historical narrative to landscape painting. Landscape with a Calm does not illustrate a story
but rather evokes a mood. The ordered composition and clear, golden light contribute to A
Calm's utter tranquility, while glowing, gem-like colors and fluid paint strokes enliven this scene
of benevolent nature. Poussin's sketching campaigns in the Roman countryside with his friend
and fellow landscape painter Claude Lorrain account, in part, for its fresh observation of cloud-
scattered sky and grazing goats.
Poussin painted a pendant to this painting, Landscape with a Storm, now in a museum in Rouen.
Together their contrasting weather effects embody nature's changing and unpredictable
relationship with man. Poussin painted these works for the Parisian merchant Jean Pointel, a
friend a great collector of his landscape paintings.
THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS
"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all"
First Letter of Paul to Timothy 2:5
A sacrament is an outward efficacious sign instituted by Christ to give grace. Jesus Christ himself is the
sacrament, as he gave his life to save mankind. His humanity is the outward sign or the instrument of his
Divinity. It is through his humanity that the life of the Father and the Holy Spirit come to us as grace
through the sacraments. It is Jesus Christ alone who mediates the sacraments to allow grace to flow to
The Gospel of Mark 5:25-34 describes a woman afflicted with hemorrhage who touched the cloak of
Jesus and was immediately healed. There is a fourth century fresco painting in the catacomb of Sts.
Marcellinus and Peter depicting this event, which serves as an apt symbol of Sacrament - the power that
flows out from the body of Jesus, in order to effect both remission of sin and new life in Christ. The fresco
image frames Part II of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Liturgy and the Sacraments, The
Celebration of the Christian Mystery.
Jesus gave us his Apostles and his Church to shepherd his flock after his Ascension into heaven. "As the
Father has sent me, even so I send you [John 17:18, 20:21]." Jesus is the Head of his Body the Church
[Colossians 1:18]. The Church itself is a sacrament instituted by Christ to give grace. Jesus gave us his
Apostles and his Body the Church to continue the works he performed during his earthly life. Grace given
to us through the sacraments will help us lead a good life in this world and help save us for the afterlife.
The word sacrament is a direct translation of the Greek word mysterion. The sacraments are called
mysteries in the Eastern Churches, and, as they evolved from the earliest traditions of the Church,
Catholic as well as Eastern Orthodox Churches all recognize the seven sacraments of Baptism,
Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. The three
sacraments of Christian Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. The two sacraments of
Healing are Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, and the two sacraments of Vocation are Holy Orders
and Matrimony. Three sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, are given once, as they
render a permanent seal or character upon one's soul [2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 4:30,
Each sacrament consists of a visible external rite, which is composed of matter and form, the matter
being the action, such as the pouring of water, and the form being the words spoken by the minister.
Each sacramental rite confers a special ecclesial effect and sacramental grace appropriate for each
sacrament. The sacraments occur at pivotal events and give meaning to a person's life.
The sacraments act ex opere operato, by the very fact of the action being performed, independent of the
minister. The effect on the person receiving the sacrament is called ex opere operantis, and depends on
the interior disposition of the receiver.
Grace is a favor, the free and undeserved gift from God through Christ Jesus, to help us respond to his
call to become children of God, to become partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. Our
justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is a participation in the life of God and is necessary for
Princess Erminia was a character in the epic poem La Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso.
In this tale she falls in love with the Christian knight Tancred, and betrays her people to aid him.
Once she discovers that Tancred is in love with Clorinde, however, she returns to join the
Muslims. She subsequently steals Clorinde's armor then joins a group of shepherds.
The name Erminia is sometimes given as "Hermine". It is related to the name "Armina", the
feminine form of "Armand".
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