Art e Dossier


Art History

Nicolas Poussin: biography

Nicolas was born at Les Andelys in Normandy to Jean Poussin and Marie Delaisement, the daughter of a judge. He was probably trained at Rouen, with Noël Jouvenet, and later, according to Bellori, he made contact with the Parisian environment where he carefully studied engravings based on Raphael’s paintings. In the capital Poussin frequented the studios of Elle le Vieux and Georges Lallemand. In 1616 he set off for Rome, but had to interrupt his journey in Florence in order to return to Paris. There he did six large tempera paintings for the Jesuits that have since been lost. Those works earned him the protection of Cavalier Marino who invited him to Rome in 1623 and introduced him to Sacchetti and Francesco Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII. His first known works date from the Roman period, where he created his own form of classicism that only in part reflected the contemporary artistic trends of the city. In 1626, the year he shared lodgings with the sculptor François Douquesnoy, Cardinal Barberini commissioned him to paint The Death of Germanicus (Minneapolis) that he completed in 1628. In that painting we can see the influence of his studies on tone in Venice that he furthered in Titian’s Bacchanals in the Aldobrandini collection. During that period he also painted The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus for St. Peter’s, the only “public” commission he had in Rome. In September 1630 he married Anna Maria Dughet, daughter of his landlord, Jacques the cook and sister of the painter Gaspard; in 1631 he was accepted as a member of the Accademia di San Luca. Even though he worked for a limited circle of admirers that included Cassiano dal Pozzo for whom he painted the famous cycle of The Seven Sacraments between 1637 and 1639, his fame spread to France where he painted four Bacchanals, (1636) for Richelieu. Nicolas was back in Paris from 1640 to 1642 and Louis XIII appointed him “first painter to the king.” In spite of that honor, Poussin went back to Rome. Though dominated by a quest for compositional harmony and “ideal beauty”, his paintings from this period became increasingly solemn even in his renderings of landscapes a genre that he painted frequently during this phase. In 1657 Poussin turned down the position of “Prince of the Accademia di San Luca” once again revealing his desire to remain aloof from the Roman ambient. He died in Rome on 19 November 1665.

The works