Work Domestic scene in a room
Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century
Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo L. Chastel
Prints and Drawings
The precise subject of this drawing is unknown. It represents an interior scene-rare in Poussin's work, as he generally preferred history painting. However, he still managed to give this ordinary scene the character of an antique bas-relief. It is generally dated to around 1645 because of the stylistic similarities to the drawings in the second series of Sacraments (1644-48).
A mysterious subject
The inspiration for this drawing remains a mystery; it was not drawn in preparation for any known painting. It may refer to an antique fable such as those of Aesop, as Poussin did illustrate such a fable in another drawing, also in the Louvre. It is likely that the woman lying in bed in the background on the left has recently given birth to the newborn in the cradle in the foreground. A woman in the center is scolding two children at play on the left who are making too much noise. On the right, a young girl is having her hair styled by a servant.
A realist depiction of an everyday scene
The drawing may also simply depict a scene witnessed by the artist. On his return to Rome after his tumultuous visit to Paris in 1640-42, Poussin lived peacefully in a house on the via Paolina with his wife and brother-in-law Jean Dughet, and from time to time various nephews and nieces. He may simply have chosen to illustrate a scene of his daily life. If this is the case, he has succeeded in giving the everyday scene a remarkable dramatic tension.
An intimate bas-relief
The scene is laid out like an antique bas-relief. Poussin lit the scene with a pale wash that structures the room like a stage set. The female figures have all the noble elegance of his nymphs and allegories. The rowdy children who have just broken a pot in the foreground and are being threatened with punishment are reminiscent of the putti or cherubs in works of antiquity. The scene is timeless, dominated by the powerful female figure in the center of the composition. Although he rarely produced such genre scenes, Poussin nonetheless rivals the greatest artists in this domain.
BibliographyPrat Louis-Antoine, Rosenberg Pierre, Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665 : Catalogue raisonné des dessins, 1994, II, n 274
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)
Domestic scene in a room
Pen, brown ink, brown wash
H. 14.8 cm; L. 29.1 cm
Everhard Jabach collection; purchased from Jabach for the Royal Cabinet of Curiosities, 1671
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