Nicolas Poussin (French, Les Andelys 1594–1665 Rome)

ca. 1635–36
Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over faint black chalk underdrawing
5 1/4 x 8 1/8 in. (13.3 x 20.6 cm.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, David T. Schiff Gift, 1998
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Although he spent most of his career in Rome, Poussin was considered the greatest living French artist, and his work was avidly sought after by influential French collectors. This sparkling study can be related to the "Triumph of Pan" (National Gallery, London) executed for Cardinal Richelieu, the French minister of state, along with a pendant depicting the "Triumph of Bacchus" (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City). While the finished painting depicts a scene of sensual abandon, the drawn studies reveal Poussin's cerebral process of composition, in which individual figures are treated as formal elements of a tightly knit composition based on classical ideals of beauty. Here, broad, abstracted areas of wash are used to explore the volume and spatial relations of the complex figural group that can be seen, in reversed direction, at the left side of the painting. At least four other studies for the painting survive—two at Windsor Castle, England, and two at Bayonne, France—suggesting the care with which Poussin prepared this important commission.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: In pen and brown ink at lower left: "Nicolo Possino"; at lower right: "in Vecchiaia"

  • Provenance

    Sotheby's, London, November 28, 1962, lot 14; T. W. Atkinson (listed as buyer at Sotheby's, London, November 28, 1962); Sotheby's, London, December 13, 1973, lot 28; Curtis O. Baer (New Rochelle, New York); Dr. George M. Baer ; Vendor: Jill Newhouse

  • Exhibition History

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," September 21, 1998–November 30, 1998.

  • References

    Walter Friedlaender, Sir Anthony Blunt The Drawings of Nicolas Poussin. Catalogue Raisonné. Part Five. Drawings after the Antique. Miscellaneous Drawings. Addenda. 5 vols., London, 1974, cat. no. 438, fig. no. pl. 313.

    Sir Anthony Blunt The Drawings of Poussin. New Haven and London, 1979, p. 103.

    Doris Wild Nicolas Poussin. 2 vols., Zurich, 1980, cat. no. under no 67.

    Hugh MacAndrew, Hugh Brigstocke Sacraments and Bacchanals. Paintings and Drawings on Sacred and Profane Themes by Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665. Ex. cat., National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 16 October - 13 December. 1981, cat. no. 22, 26, fig. no. 12.

    O. Bätschmann Dialektik der Malerei von Nicolas Poussin. Zurich-Munich, 1982, note 164, p. 76.

    Eric Zafran Master Drawings: from Titian to Picasso, The Curtis O. Baer Collection. Exhibition Catalogue: The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia. The High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia, 1985-1986, cat. no. 24, ill.

    Sir Anthony Blunt The Drawings of Poussin. French edition. Poitiers, 1988, p. 107.

    O. Bätschmann Dialektik der Malerei von Nicolas Poussin. English edition. London, 1990, note 6, p. 142.

    Pierre Rosenberg, Louis-Antoine Prat Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665: Catalogue raisonné des dessins. 2 vols., Milan, 1994, cat. no. 93, vol. I, fig. no. 93a, p. 168, ill.

    Carmen C. Bambach, Colta Ives, Perrin Stein, Nadine Orenstein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1998-1999." in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 57, no. 2, Autumn 1999, p. 32, ill.

    "Principales acquisitions des musées en 1999." Gazette des Beaux-Arts. vol. 135, no. 1574, Paris, March 2000, fig. no. 196, p. 50, ill.

    Richelieu: Art and Power. Ex. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Cologne: Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Edited by Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Montreal and Cologne, 2002, cat. no. 129, p. 299, ill.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History