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date: 29 September 2023

Poussin, Nicolasfree

Poussin, Nicolasfree

Updated in this version

updated 28 May 2015; updated and revised 02 October 2012

French, 17th century, male.

Active from 1624 in Italy.

Born June 1594, in Villers, near Les Andelys (Eure); died 19 November 1665, in Rome.

Painter. Figure compositions, religious subjects, mythological subjects, landscapes with figures.

Albert Clouet: Nicolas Poussin, engraving and etching (Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art, Gift of John O’Brien); image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Nicolas POUSSIN: signature or monogram

According to the biographers André Félibien and Giovanni Pietro Bellori, Nicolas Poussin was born in the country to a father from a noble family and a mother who was the daughter of a magistrate. A studious boy, he is thought to have attended the Jesuit college in Rouen. It was not long before his interest in art became apparent. He met the painter Quentin Varin in Les Andelys in 1611 or 1612, who encouraged his artistic vocation. Poussin ran away to Paris against his family’s wishes at the age of 18.

Information about his sojourn in Paris (1612–1623) is scanty, but it seems that he worked in the studios of the painters Ferdinand Elle and Georges Lallemant. He also stayed for a short time with Noël Jouvenet in Rouen. He had the fortune to meet Alexandre Courtois, valet to Marie de’ Medici and later valet and keeper of the collections to Anne of Austria. Through Courtois, Poussin had access not only to prints of the great works of the Renaissance but also, in all probability, to the royal collections. While in Paris, Poussin attended lessons in anatomy and perspective and probably went to Fontainebleau, where he studied its collection of French and Italian paintings. He seems to have lived a carefree life in Paris. He admitted to owing his landlord, the merchant goldsmith Jean Guillemin, 120 livres, a debt he never settled.

Like many painters at that time, he dreamed only of going to Rome. He set off in 1617 or 1618, got as far as Florence, and then returned to Paris for reasons that are not understood. He tried for a second time c. 1622 but had to interrupt his journey in Lyons, perhaps on account of an unpaid debt. That same year, he worked for the Jesuits in Paris. He painted six canvases in tempera for the Jesuit college in Paris in 1622 and an altarpiece depicting The Death of the Virgin for Notre Dame Cathedral. Marie de’ Medici asked him, in about 1623, to participate in the decoration of the Palais de Luxembourg under the direction of Nicolas Duchesne and in collaboration with Philippe de Champaigne. At this time, the Italian poet Giovanni Battista Marino commissioned him to make 15 drawings to illustrate Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Marino took Poussin under his protection, lodging him as well as giving him commissions. It was probably thanks to Marino’s patronage that Poussin was able to leave once again for Rome, where he arrived in 1624 after a stay in Venice.

Unfortunately, Marino died in 1625 and, deprived of his patron, Poussin at first had difficulty establishing himself in Rome, not only because of the rivalry of the Italian artists but also because of the swarms of other artists from all over Europe. Fortunately, Marino had recommended him to Marcello Sacchetti, the papal treasurer, who introduced him to Cardinal Francesco Barberini. He was the nephew of the art-loving Pope Urban VIII, who was always ready to embark on new building projects. Poussin was now able to continue his studies in greater depth, particularly at the Accademia di S Luca, directed at that period by Simon Vouet. Despite all these advantages, Poussin found great difficulty in obtaining commissions, and his problems were exacerbated by an illness that may have been syphilis and from which he was never entirely to recover. The hand trembling that began in 1642 and greatly increased towards the end of his life is likely to have been related to the illness.

The support of Cassiano dal Pozzo, a true friend to Poussin during these difficult years; Francesco Barberini; and also Gianlorenzo Bernini helped him obtain two major commissions - The Death of Germanicus (1627–1628), painted for Barberini, and The Martyrdom of St Erasmus (1628–1629), for the chapel of St Erasmus in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These finally, in 1628, brought him to the attention of a larger public. They led to several more commissions, each very different from the other. They included the first series of the Seven Sacraments for Cassiano dal Pozzo, the second version of Arcadian Shepherds (or Et in Arcadia Ego, Louvre) for Cardinal Rospigliosi, Empire of Flora for the international swindler Fabrizio Valguarnera, and the series of bacchanals for Cardinal Richelieu. This marked the beginning of a period of stability. He married Anne-Marie Dughet on 1 September 1630. She was the daughter of the French cook Jacques Dughet, who had taken him in and cared for him during his professional struggles and illness. Poussin taught Anne’s brother, Gaspard Dughet, to paint, and Dughet imitated his style. Poussin now began to paint smaller paintings, not for official commissions but for the private collections of art lovers such as Cassiano dal Pozzo. He was inducted into the Accademia di S Luca by 1632, and he became so successful that he was all but forced to return to France to paint for the king. Cardinal Richelieu and then Paul Fréart of Chantelou, maître d’hôtel to the king of France, both commissioned works that brought him to the notice of Louis XIII.

In 1640, established in rooms in the Tuileries, he was first painter to the king in rivalry with Vouet.

As court painter (1640–1642), Poussin found himself obliged to work in areas in which he did not feel comfortable. He was required to paint works for Fontainebleau and St-Germain-en-Laye as well as to supervise the work of the other court painters. He also undertook the decoration of the Great Gallery at the Louvre and found himself overseeing a veritable army of painters, stucco carvers, and sculptors there and at the Palais Cardinal (now Palais Royal). He repainted a number of altarpieces, including the Institution of the Eucharist for the chapel at the château of St-Germain-en-Laye and the Miracle of St Francis Xavier for the high altar of the church of the novitiate of the Jesuits. He painted one section of the ceiling of the Palais Cardinal with an allegorical scene depicting Time Rescuing Truth from the Assaults of Envy and Discord. At the same time he was supposed to supply designs for tapestries, book frontispieces, decorations to go over fireplaces and doors, and other ‘bagatelles’, which he found tiresome.

The unremitting work, the time spent on tasks that he did not enjoy, and the criticism of jealous painters like Vouet led him to leave Paris in 1642. Pleading bad health and wanting to see his wife in Rome, he promised to return. The death of Richelieu in 1642 and of Louis XIII the following year allowed him to break his promise. Nevertheless, the time spent in France was beneficial to the artist, since it made him known to several collectors, including Chantelou and the banker Pointel, who kept him busy with work for the last 23 years of his life. It was a period of tranquillity and hard work and one in which – despite his physical problems, the tremor in his hands, personal sorrows, and the deaths of Cassiano dal Pozzo (1657) and his wife (1664) – he was to produce his finest masterpieces.

Although he worked very slowly, from his return to Rome in 1643 until the year of his death in 1665, Poussin completed many major commissions. Between 1644 and 1648, he painted a second series of the Seven Sacraments for Chantelou. He painted numerous religious works including The Finding of Moses (1647), The Annunciation, The Holy Family, and Lamentation over the Dead Christ. Responding to the urgings of his two most loyal patrons, Chantelou and Pointel, he produced two self-portraits (1649–1650), the only ones he was to paint. This was the period when he was chiefly interested in landscape, the pretext being a variety of historical, mythological, or religious themes as, for example, in The Funeral of Phocion, the landscape with Diogenes, or that in which Hagar and the angel are depicted. Later, the landscapes begin to appear in their own right, as in The Storm and Fair Weather. The series of the Four Seasons of 1660–1664, Poussin’s last works, depict biblical scenes.

Poussin’s artistic training as a young man seems to have had so little influence on his work that he can almost be regarded as self-taught. By contrast, his intimate knowledge of the Bible and of authors such as Plutarch, Ovid, and Virgil permeated his work from the very start. He first discovered Raphael through the engravings of Marcantonio Raimondi. He studied the work of Francesco Primaticcio at Fontainebleau and admired Titian while in Venice. Once in Rome, he developed an enthusiasm for antique art, studied Raphael’s Stanze at the Vatican Palace, and continued to educate himself.

At the date when he arrived in Rome, 1624, although the Mannerist tradition had not entirely disappeared, artists were developing along two different paths. One was best illustrated by Caravaggio, a realist whose style is typified by sharply contrasting areas of light and shade. The other, focused around Annibale Carracci and more restrained in style, brought together the linear approach of central Italian art with a Venetian use of colour. Poussin was horrified by Caravaggio’s work, describing the artist as ‘a demon born to kill painting’. The work of the Carracci brothers did not have much impact on him, and although he shared with them their admiration for Raphael, he considered their work to be facile in execution. He seems to have been more impressed by Domenichino and, according to tradition, went to S Gregorio Magno to copy Domenichino’s Flagellation of St Andrew while a crowd of other painters instead studied Guido Reni’s St Andrew Led to Martyrdom on a nearby wall.

For Poussin, ‘no line should come from an artist’s hand that has not already been formed in his mind’. This dictum can be seen as one of the elements that might define French Classical painting in the 17th century and particularly the work of Poussin. Like the sculptors of antiquity, he wished to impose strict rules on his art, and Leon Battista Alberti’s treatises on painting and sculpture were to assist him greatly in this endeavour. For Poussin, the idea of beauty did not exist in nature and it was not possible to create beauty simply by observing or reproducing an object because, ‘The idea of beauty does not enter matter unless it is properly prepared. This preparation depends on three things: order, manner and kind or true form.’ Despite the severity of this rule, reminiscent of the principles of classical tragedy, Poussin’s art is never monotonous or uniform.

Poussin painted mythological, religious, and allegorical subjects throughout his career, with certain themes executed more than once. Some of his canvases, such as The Death of Germanicus (1628) or The Judgement of Solomon (1649), are composed within the confines of architectural elements, the figures being presented as in an antique frieze. This is also true of the majority of the paintings making up the two series of the Seven Sacraments, works of great dramatic intensity and not without emotion. At other times, Poussin expressed pain or sorrow more strongly in works full of passion and impetuous movement, such as The Massacre of the Innocents (1624–1632), one of the most violent of all his works. Here the artist expresses the horror of the murder of a child and the despair of a mother. The Plague of Ashdod depicts another dramatic episode similarly composed within a landscape carefully structured around architectural elements, where the events unfold before us in a perfect composition. Poussin is able to present the various episodes of a story in a single painting without any awkwardness thanks to the rhythm created by the colours and the use of light. In compositions with only a small number of figures placed in a landscape, balanced and made highly structured by the presence of architectural elements, the effect is monumental. This can be seen, for example, in the two versions of the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, the first painted c. 1643 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) and the other in 1657 (National Gallery, Dublin). In both paintings the intense emotion and the seriousness of the scene are emphasised by the sobriety of the balance between landscape, architecture, and figures, the few strident colours underlining the anguish of the drama. This sense of monumentality can already be found at an earlier date, and in a far more peaceful setting, in Poussin’s Arcadian Shepherds (c. 1638, Louvre). The iconographic interpretation of this work has been debated by many scholars, including Erwin Panofsky in his Essays on Iconology.

Compositions such as those discussed above can be seen not only as defining the Classical style of the 17th century but also as forerunners of the Neo-Classicism of the 19th century. But Poussin did not confine himself entirely to work of this kind. He could also paint lively compositions full of sensuality and even voluptuousness, such as Empire of Flora (c. 1631) with its diaphanous colours and, particularly, Acis and Galatea, where the electric tonalities of blues, oranges, and reds are reminiscent of Venetian painting. Despite the antique frieze-like composition, his Bacchanal before a Statue of Pan of c. 1633 is joyful and dynamic, the rhythmical movements of the interlaced dancers supported by vibrant blues and yellows. The Triumph of Venus is one of Poussin’s most seductive works, where he seems to delight in the quality of the flesh and the nuances of light and shade falling on his nude figures.

Poussin’s landscapes, which developed especially after 1643, reveal the artist’s sensitivity. His earliest landscapes, Landscape with St John on Patmos and Landscape with St Matthew and the Angel, date very probably from 1640, before his departure for Paris. They are highly ordered, ornamented with ruins or other buildings in the antique style and bathed in an all-embracing light that gives them their unity. Although it is always a setting for biblical, mythological, or allegorical events, the landscape becomes increasingly important in Poussin’s paintings. The figures of the drama become ever smaller, sometimes merging into the landscape to the extent that they become one with it, as in Hercules and Cacus. Sometimes the landscape and the subject match, both being dramatic, as in Stormy Landscape with Pyramus and Thisbe (1651), a subject giving the artist an excuse for painting nature at its wildest, with storms, wind, and rain, where the small figures and their tragedy have become almost insignificant. In other works, the landscape may be orderly, sunny, and peaceful while dramatic events are taking place that apparently pass unnoticed, as in The Funeral of Phocion and Landscape with the Ashes of Phocion. It is in such landscapes as these that it is possible to see the connections between Poussin and Claude Lorrain. The two French artists were in Rome at the same time and knew each other, painting similar subjects such as Hagar and the Angel. Their techniques were different, however, and while Claude sometimes worked from nature, Poussin preferred to work from memory, relying only on a few sketched notes. These rapid pen and wash sketches are nearly indistinguishable from those of Claude, particularly in their way of drawing foliage.

From his early career, Poussin made drawings in two different styles. The first is sculptural, the contours of the forms being defined with a wash that gives an effect of relief, light, and shade, as can be seen in the very fine View of the Aventine bathed in a vibrant light. The other manner is graphic, where the pen line emphasises the figures and landscapes with a nervous line made all the more erratic as the artist became increasingly affected by the tremor in his hand. Often, Poussin combined the two styles in his drawings, for the most part in preparatory studies for paintings. His last works were to be the Four Seasons of 1660–1664. Although they contain biblical scenes symbolic of the ages of man and the hours of the day, the landscapes dominate. Even in those compositions closest to nature, Poussin was always obedient to the rules that he had imposed on himself, but, thanks to his qualities as a colourist and his innate sensitivity, he never fell into the sterility of academic art. The French author André Gide suggested that Poussin’s instinct was stronger than his ideas, writing, ‘The amazing thing here is that Poussin was enough of a painter, enough of a great painter to prevent the container from sinking beneath the excessive weight of the content; to enable thought to triumph over matter at the same time as glorifying it. With him, thought was instantly transformed into image, was born already formed, and here intention, emotion, form and craft all came together and brought about the work of art.’

Poussin had no immediate followers but was influential in establishing classical principles in the French Royal Academy (founded 1648) and continued to be a reference point for painters as various as Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Jean--François Millet, Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Balthus, Markus Lüpertz, Miguel Angel Campano, and François Imhoff. Cézanne once said, ‘Every time I come from looking at Poussin, I know better who I am.’

Group Exhibitions

2002, Poussin to Cézanne: French Drawings and Watercolours in the Ashmolean Museum, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

2010–2011, Poussin to Seurat: French Drawings from the National Gallery of Scotland, Wallace Collection, London

Solo Exhibitions

1959, Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis (MN), and Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo (OH)

1994, Nicolas Poussin, Louvre, Paris (fourth centenary of artist’s birth)

2006, Bacchanal: Enchantment and Pleasures – Evoking a Bygone Golden Age, Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

2007–2008, Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao

2008, Nicolas Poussin: The Flight into Egypt (Nicolas Poussin: la fuite en Égypte), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon

2011, Poussin and Moïse: From Design to Tapestry (Poussin et Moïse: du dessin à la tapisserie), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Aachen: Southern Landscape; Cain Murdering His Brother

Ajaccio (Mus. Fesch): King Midas

Basel: Bacchus and His Followers

Bayonne (Mus. Bonnat): Nymph on the Back of a Kneeling Satyr

Berlin (Gemäldegal. Alte Meister): Landscape with Juno and the Slain Argus; The Child Jupiter Suckled by the Goat Amalthea; Helios and Phaeton with Saturn and the Four Seasons (1630, oil on canvas); Landscape with Matthew and the Angel; Self-portrait (1649, oil on canvas)

Béziers: Sleeping Bacchus

Birmingham (Barber Institute of Fine Arts): Trancred and Erminia (c. 1634, oil on canvas)

Bonn: Death of the Virgin

Boston (MFA): Mars and Venus (c. 1628, oil on canvas); Achilles with the Daughters of Lycomedes

Brighton (Royal Pavilion): Virgin and Child

Budapest: Landscape

Caen: Bacchanal; Death of Adonis

Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Mus.): Eliezer and Rebecca (1650–1655, oil on canvas)

Cambridge, MA (Fogg AM, Harvard University): Holy Family; Birth of Bacchus

Cardiff (National Mus. and Gal.): Landscape with the Funeral of Phocion

Châlons-en-Champagne (Mus. Municipal): Triumph of David

Chantilly (Mus. Condé): Childhood of Bacchus; Leda; Theseus Discovering His Father’s Sword; Numa Pompilius and the Nymph Egeria; Landscape with Two Nymphs; Annunciation; Holy Family; Massacre of the Innocents; Large Landscape (several drawings)

Chatsworth (Chatsworth House): Arcadian Shepherds (1627)

Cherbourg (Mus. Thomas-Henry): Landscape outside Rome; Virgin Lamenting over the Dead Christ; Pyramus and Thisbe

Chicago (AI): Landscape with Saint John on Patmos (1640, oil on canvas)

Cincinnati, OH (AM): Pallas and Aglaure (drawing)

Cleveland, OH (MA): Holy Family on the Steps

Copenhagen (Statens Mus. for Kunst): Jehovah Revealing Himself to Moses; The Testament of Eudamidas

Detroit, MI (Institute of Art): Diana and Endymion; Holy Family

Dijon: Corneille

Dresden (Gemäldegal. Alte Meister): Adoration of the Kings; Syrinx Pursued by Pan (c. 1637, oil on canvas); Sleeping Venus and Cupid; Narcissus Contemplating His Reflection; Martrydom of St Erasmus

Dublin (NG of Ireland): Lamentation; Marriage of Thetis and Peleus; Acis and Galatea; Holy Family

Edinburgh: Sacraments

Edinburgh (NG of Scotland): The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine (oil/panel)

Florence: Theseus and Trezene; View of the Aventine

Fort Worth, TX (Kimbell AM): Venus and Adonis (c. 1628–1629, oil on canvas); Ordination

Frankfurt am Main (Städel): Pyramus and Thisbe in a Landscape (1651, oil on canvas)

Geneva (Mus. Ariana): Les Andelys

Genoa: Tobias Burning the Fish Liver

Glasgow: Sacrifice of Mettius Curtius

Gotha: Landscape

Grantham (Belvoir Castle): Sacraments: Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Marriage, Extreme Unction (c. 1638–1640, oil on canvas)

Hanover (Niedersächsisches Landesmus.): On Parnassus; Inspiration of Anacreon

Kansas City: Triumph of Bacchus

Karlsruhe: Virgin and Child

Kassel: Bacchanalian Scene; Assassination of Pompy

Le Havre: Village in a Landscape

Le Mans (Mus. de Tessé): Cupid Awakening a Sleeping Child

Lille: Time Rescuing Truth from the Assaults of Envy and Discord

Lisieux: Finding of Moses

Liverpool (Walker AG): Landscape with the Ashes of Phocion

London (Dulwich Picture Gal.): Venus and Mercury (c. 1627–1629, oil on canvas); Triumph of David (1628–1631, oil on canvas); Return of the Holy Family from Egypt (c. 1628–1638, oil on canvas); Rinaldo and Armida (c. 1630, oil on canvas); Nurture of Jupiter (c. 1635, oil on canvas); Translation of Saint Rita of Cascia (c. 1635, oil/panel)

London (NG): Nymph with Satyrs (c. 1627, oil on canvas); Cephalus and Aurora (1627–1630, oil on canvas); Nurture of Bacchus (c. 1628, oil on canvas); Bacchanal before a Statue of Pan (1632–1633, oil on canvas); Adoration of the Golden Calf (1633-1634, oil on canvas); Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1633–1634, oil on canvas); Triumph of Pan (1636, oil on canvas); Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake (1648?, oil on canvas); The Finding of Moses (1651, oil on canvas); The Annunciation (1657, oil on canvas)

London (Wallace Collection): A Dance to the Music of Time (oil on canvas)

Los Angeles (Getty Mus.): Landscape with a Calm (Un temps calme et serein) (1650–1651, oil on canvas); The Holy Family (1651, oil on canvas)

Lyons (MBA): Flight into Egypt (oil on canvas, acquisition financed by the Musée du Louvre)

Madrid (Prado): St Jerome Praying in a Landscape; Apparition of the Risen Christ to Mary Magdalene; Landscape with River, Mountain, Architecture and Figures; Landscape (pendant of the preceding item); Wooded Landscape with Figures; Victorious David after Defeating Goliath; Bacchanal; Apollo and the Muses on Parnassus; Sacrifice of Noah after the Flood; Combat of Roman Gladiators; Anachorites in the Ruins of the Thebaid; St Cecilia; Bacchanalian Scene; Sleeping Diana in a Landscape; Hunt of Meleager; Recumbent Silenus; Polyphemus and Galatea in a Landscape; Architectural Ruins; Bacchus and Ariadne

Mainz: Classical Landscape

Minneapolis, MN (Institute of Art): The Death of Germanicus (La Mort de Germanicus) (1627, oil on canvas)

Montauban: Landscape

Montpellier (Mus. Fabre): Death of St Cecilia (uncertain); Baptism of Christ; Birth of Bacchus; Rebecca and Eliezer; Cardinal Giulio Rospiglioni (Clement IX); Venus and Adonis

Montreal (MBA): Landscape with a Man Pursued by a Snake (1638–1639)

Moscow (Pushkin MFA): Holy Family; Victory of Joshua over the Amorites; Landscape with Hercules and Cacus

Moscow (Rumiantsev Mus.): Extreme Unction; Battle; Jews Adoring the Golden Calf

Munich (Alte Pinakothek): Lamentation over the Dead Christ (La Déploration du Christ) (c. 1626, oil on canvas); Midas Imploring Bacchus

Munich (Schloss Schleissheim): Annunciation (L’Annonciation) (oil on wood); Nativity (La Nativité) (oil on wood)

Nancy: Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem

Nantes: a sketch

Narbonne: Camilla Delivers the Faliscan Schoolmaster to His Pupils (disputed); St John the Baptist in the Jordan

New York (Metropolitan MA): mythological subject; Landscape with Figures; Landscape with Faun and Nymph; Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun (1658); Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man (1655)

Oldenburg: Two Old Testament Scenes

Ottawa (NG of Canada): Martyrdom of St Erasmus

Oxford (Ashmolean Mus.): The Finding of Moses (oil on canvas)

Paris (Louvre): Eliezer and Rebecca; Finding of Moses (two works); The Child Moses Trampling on the Crown of Pharaoh; Moses Changes Aaron’s Rod into a Serpent; Israelites Gathering the Manna in the Desert; Philistines Struck Down by Plague; Judgement of Solomon; Adoration of the Magi; Holy Family (two works); Blind Men of Jericho; Woman Taken in Adultery; Christ Instituting the Sacrament of the Eucharist; Assumption; Apparition of the Virgin to St James the Great; Death of Saphira; St John Baptising the People on the Banks of the Jordan; Esctasy of St Paul; St Francis Xavier Raising the Dead Daughter of an Inhabitant of Kagoshima in Japan; Rape of the Sabine Women; Camilla Delivering the Faliscan School Master to His Pupils; The Saving of Young Pyrrhus; Mars and Venus; Mars and Rhea Sylvia; Two Bacchanals; Echo and Narcissus; Vision of St Françoise Romaine; Triumph of Flora; Concert; Arcadian Shepherds (1637–1638); Spring, or Adam and Eve Expelled from the Earthly Paradise; Time Rescuing Truth from the Attacks of Envy and Discord; Summer or Ruth and Boaz; Autumn: The Grapes of the Promised Land; Winter, or The Flood; Orpheus and Eurydice; Landscape; Diogenes in a Landscape, Hurling a Bowl of Soup; Self-portrait; Achilles at Scyros; Apollo in Love with Daphne; Empire of Flora; Landscape with the Body of Phocion; Inspiration of the Poet

Philadelphia (MA): The Birth of Venus (Triomphe de Vénus) (1635 or 1636, oil on canvas); Baptism of Christ

Quimper: Finding of Moses

Rennes: Ruins of a Triumphal Arch and Figures

Rheims (MBA): Woman Washing Her Feet

Richmond, VA: Marriage of St Catherine

Richmond, VA (Virginia MFA): Achilles on Skyros (1656, oil on canvas)

Rohrau (Schlossmus., Graf Harrach’sche Familiensammlung): Mountainous Landscape

Rome (Gal. Colonna): Sleeping Shepherds; Apollo and Daphne

Rome (Palazzo Barberini): Children’s Baccanal; Landscape with Hagar and the Angel

Rome (Palazzo Doria Pamphili): Landscapes

Rouen (MBA): Venus and Aeneas; The Storm

St Petersburg (Hermitage): Moses Striking the Rock; Joshua Defeating the Amalekites; Esther before Assuerus; Holy Family; Deposition; Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite; Venus and the Satyr; Bacchanal; Satyr and Nymph; Testament of Eudamidas; Continence of Scipio; Rinaldo and Armida; Tancred and Erminia; Concord; Charity; Cherubs and Genii; Landscapes; Polyphemus; Hercules and Cacus; Queen Zinobia Discovered on the Banks of the Araxes; Square in an Antique Roman Town (uncertain)

Stockholm: Bacchus and Erigone

Toulouse: St John the Baptist; Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Turin: Hunter; St Margaret

Vatican: Martyrdom of St Erasmus

Vienna (Czernin’sche Gemäldegal.): Scene during the Plague in Marseilles; Baptism of Christ with God the Father Above

Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Mus.): Destruction of Jerusalem; Peter and John Curing the Lame (uncertain)

Vienna (Liechtenstein Mus.): St Peter and St Paul Healing a Lame Man

Vire: Bacchanal

Washington, DC (NGA): Assumption of the Virgin (c. 1626, oil on canvas); Feeding of the Child Jupiter (c. 1640, oil on canvas); Baptism of Christ (1641–1642, oil on canvas); drawings

Windsor Castle (Royal Library): drawings

Auction Records

Paris, 1742: Venus and Aeneas, FRF 3,500

Paris, 1775: Jupiter as a Child, FRF 12,310; The Sacrament of Extreme Unction (bistre) FRF 2,900

Paris, 1795: Bacchanal, FRF 22,835

Paris, 1813: Festival of the God Pan, FRF 50,000

Paris, 1855: St Mary Magdalene at the Foot of the Cross (pen and bistre wash) FRF 475

Paris, 8–10 June 1920: Landscape with Tall Trees (pen) FRF 4,600

London, 4–5 May 1922: Roman Campagna, GBP 630

Paris, 12–13 June 1933: Roman Road, FRF 22,000

Paris, 10 Feb 1943: Sleeping Nymph, FRF 400,000

London, 3 April 1946: Landscape with Flocks and Peasants, GBP 750

New York, 23–27 Jan 1947: Bacchanal before a Temple, USD 2,050

London, 4 May 1951: Venus and Adonis, GBP 1,155

New York, 29 April 1960: Grateful Father, USD 5,000

Paris, 9 June 1960: Pan and Syrinx on the Banks of the River Ladon (pen and bistre wash) FRF 5,200

London, 27 June 1962: View of the Countryside with Figures, GBP 14,000

Paris, 1 July 1965: Pan and Syrinx on the Banks of the River Ladon (pen and bistre wash) FRF 6,100

London, 6 July 1967: Sheet with Studies from Antique Low Reliefs (pen and wash) GBP 1,500

London, 9 July 1973: Various Figures (pen, study) GBP 1,200

London, 10 April 1981: Holy Family with St John the Baptist as a Child, St Elizabeth and Six Putti Carrying an Ewer (c. 1651, oil on canvas, 39¼ × 52 ins/100 × 132 cm) GBP 1,650,000

London, 6 July 1984: Venus and Adonis (oil on canvas, 39 × 53 ins/99 × 134.6 cm) GBP 260,000

Paris, 2 Oct 1985: Moses and the Daughters of Jethro (pen and bistre wash, 5 × 11¼ ins/12.5 × 28.5 cm) FRF 1,300,000

Paris, 29 June 1987: Bacchanal (pen and bistre wash/pencil sketch, 7 × 9½ ins/17.5 × 24.2 cm) FRF 500,000

Fontainebleau, 28 Feb 1988: Dance (heightened drawing, 5 × 6¾ ins/13 × 17 cm) FRF 14,000

Paris, 12 Dec 1988: Olympus and Marsyas (oil on canvas, 49¼ × 35¼ ins/125 × 89.4 cm) FRF 7,400,000

New York, 12 Jan 1990: Woulded Soldier by Trajan’s Column (ink and wash, 9¾ × 8¼ ins/25 × 21 cm) USD 90,750

London, 2 July 1991: Wooded and Hilly Landscape in the Valley of the Tiber (black chalk and brown wash, 5¼ × 10 ins/13.2 × 25.7 cm) GBP 154,000

Monaco, 2 July 1993: Rest on the Flight into Egypt (oil on panel, 18 × 12¼ ins/46 × 31 cm) FRF 3,663,000

London, 13 Dec 1996: Battle of Putti Mounted on Goats (oil on canvas, 13 × 15 ins/33.3 × 38.2 cm) GBP 56,500

London, 3 Dec 1997: Narcissus (c. 1627, oil on canvas, 20¾ × 16½ ins/53 × 41.9 cm) GBP 199,500

New York, 28 Jan 1999: The Agony in the Garden (oil on copper, 24 × 19 ins/60 × 47 cm) USD 6,100,000

London, 6 July 1999: Bacchus with Nymphs and Putti (pen/ink/wash heightened with white ink, 4 × 10 ins/11 × 25 cm) GBP 32,000

London, 4 July 2000: The Satyr and the Peasant. Studies of Leg and Draped Figure (pen/brown ink, double-sided, 5 × 4 ins/13 × 11 cm) GBP 18,000

Venice, 23 Sept 2000: Baccanale (oil on canvas, 44 × 61 ins/113 × 154 cm) ITL 255,000,000

London, 11 July 2001: Arcadian Landscape with Stories from the Legends of Pan and Bacchus (oil on canvas, 29 × 38 ins/74 × 96 cm) GBP 400,000

Zurich, 5 Oct 2001: Holy Family with St John the Baptist (oil on canvas, 31 × 25 ins/80 × 63 cm) CHF 2,400,000

New York, 23 Jan 2002: Studies (black chalk/pen/ink/wash, 12 × 9 ins/31 × 23 cm) USD 180,000

Paris, 25 March 2002: Man Drawing in a Landscape (pen/ink, 5 × 7 ins/12 × 18 cm) EUR 160,000

Paris, 26 March 2003: Untitled (pen/ink) EUR 19,000

London, 10 Dec 2003: Holy Family with St John the Baptist (oil on canvas, 20 × 27 ins/51 × 68 cm) GBP 500,000

New York, 15 April 2008: Jupiter and Antiope (oil on canvas, 20½ × 26½ ins/51.5 × 66.7 cm) USD 959,400

London, 9 July 2008: Recto: The Finding of Queen Zenobia on the Banks of the River Araxes; Verso: Sketches: The Head and Shoulders of a Woman Resting Her Cheek on Her Right Hand, and a Further Study of a Left Hand; A Landscape; and at the Bottom, a Slight Torso of a Man (pen and brown ink [recto]; red and black chalk [verso], 4½ × 8½ ins/11 × 21.6 cm) GBP 73,250

New York, 25 Jan 2012: A Fragment of an Antique Altar: A Sphinx by a Garland, and an Eagle to the Right (pen and brown ink and wash; traces of a pen and brown ink framing line to the right, and also red chalk framing lines, 10¼ × 3¼ ins/26 × 8 cm) USD 59,375

London, 4 July 2012: An Antique Altar with the ‘Triumph of Silenus’ at the Base (pen and brown ink and wash, pen and brown ink framing line right edge, red chalk framing lines around the other three sides, 10½ × 4½ ins/26.1 × 10.9 cm) GBP 25,000

Paris, 10 April 2013: Un homme allongé sur un lit, deux hommes debout derrière, l’un lui tenant la main (recto); et Étude de jambe (verso) (pen and brown ink, framing lines in pen and brown ink [recto]; pierre noire [verso], 4 × 5¾ ins/10.1 × 14.5 cm) EUR 85,500

Paris, 26 March 2014: Trois portraits d’artistes de la Renaissance italienne, d’après Les vies de Giorgio Vasari (pen and brown ink, 19¾ × 51 ins/50 × 129 cm) EUR 50,700


  • Magne, Émile: Nicolas Poussin, premier peintre du roi, G. Van Oest, Paris and Brussels, 1914.
  • Grautoff, Otto: Nicolas Poussin, sein Werk und sein Leben, Georg Müller, Munich, 1914.
  • Sterling, Charles/Jamot, Paul: Les Peintres de la réalité en France au XVIIe siècle, exhibition catalogue, Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, 1934.
  • Friedlaender, Walter (ed.)/Blunt, Anthony (ed.): The Drawings of Nicolas Poussin, in 5 vols, Warburg Institute, London, 1939–1974.
  • Gide, André: Poussin, Au Divan, Paris, 1945.
  • Nicolas Poussin, symposium proceedings, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, 1960.
  • Friedlaender, Walter: Nicolas Poussin, Éditions. Cercle d’Art, Paris, 1965.
  • Blunt, Anthony: The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin, a Critical Catalogue, Phaidon, London, 1966.
  • Badt, Kurt: Die Kunst des Nicolas Poussin, DuMont Schauberg, Cologne, 1969.
  • Le Comte, Daniel: Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665: de l’antique au cubisme, Éditions du Sénevé, Paris, 1969.
  • Blunt, Anthony: The Drawings of Poussin, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT) and London, 1979.
  • Rossholm Lagerlöf, Margaretha: Ideal Landscape: Annibale Carracci, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 1990.
  • Carrier, David: Poussin’s Paintings: A Study in Art Historical Methodology, Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 1993.
  • Kendall, Richard (ed.): Cézanne and Poussin, symposium proceedings, Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield (UK), 1993.
  • Bellori, Giovanni Pietro/Félibien, André Des Avaux/Passeri, Giovanni Battista/Sandrart, Joachim von/Germer, Stefan (ed.): Vies de Poussin, Macula, Paris, 1994.
  • Bonnefoy, Yves: Rome 1630, Flammarion, Paris, 1994.
  • Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665, exhibition catalogue, Réunions des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1994.
  • Rosenberg, Pierre/Damian, Véronique: Nicolas Poussin, Somogy, Paris, 1994.
  • Thuillier, Jacques/Bätschmann, Oskar: Poussin, dialectiques de la peinture, Flammarion, Paris, 1994.
  • Blunt, Anthony: Nicolas Poussin, Pallas Athene, London, 1995.
  • Verdi, Richard: Nicolas Poussin 1594–1665, Philip Wilson, London, 1995.
  • Cropper, Elizabeth/Dempsey, Charles: Nicolas Poussin: Friendship and Love of Painting, Princeton University Press, Princeton (NJ), 1996.
  • McTighe, Sheila: Nicolas Poussin’s Landscape Allegories, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996.
  • Wright, Christopher: Poussin, Batus, n.p., 1997.
  • Marin, Louis/Porter, Catherine (trans.): Sublime Poussin, Stanford University Press, Stanford (CA), 1999 .
  • Olson, Todd P.: Poussin and France : Painting, Humanism, and the Politics of Style, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002.
  • Unglaub, Jonathan: Poussin and the Poetics of Painting: Pictorial Narrative and the Legacy of Tasso, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 2006.
  • Wright, Christopher: Poussin: Paintings, a Catalogue Raisonné, Chaucer Press, London, 2007 (revised edition).
  • Rosenberg, Pierre (ed.)/Christiansen, Keith (ed.): Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions, exhibition catalogue, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2008.
  • Bayard, Marc (ed.)/Fumagalli, Elena (ed.): Poussin et la construction de l’Antique, Somogy, Paris; Académia de France à Rome, Rome, 2011 (essays in French, English, and Italian).
  • Mérot, Alain: Poussin, Hazan, Paris, 2011 (3rd edition).