Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)

Studies after antique reliefs

Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)
Studies after antique reliefs
inscribed 'Temple Sacrifice dhommes Les hommes seront mener Nuds et ench[ai]gnes par des hommes armes et vetus a lantique' and with inscription 'N. Pousin'
black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, watermark Orfini arms
12 3/8 x 9 in. (314 x 229 mm.)
P. Barres; Sotheby's London, 6 July 1967, lot 7 (to Maggs for Martin Bodmer).
W. Friedlander and A. Blunt, The Drawings of Nicolas Poussin, A Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1974, no. 340, pl. 263.
A. Blunt, The Drawings of Poussin, New Haven and London, 1979 (French edition 1988), pp. 135-6, 141, figs. 158, 196.
O. Bätschmann, Dialektik der Malerei von Nicolas Poussin, Zurich and Munich, 1982, p. 14 (English edition, 1990, p. 135).
P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, Nicolas Poussin, Catalogue Raisonné des Dessins, Milan, 1994, no. 211.

Lot Essay

One of a small number of drawings of about 1635-40, perhaps originally leaves from an album, in which Poussin recorded classical motifs for later use.
The heavily draped figures in the upper left corner are taken from a frieze of Niobids now in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, the fragment with Odysseus attacked by Scylla is from a tondo now lost, while the scene of sacrifice is found on a sarcophagus decorated with a frieze of Orestes and Pylades brought before Iphigenia now in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, Munich. Each of these scenes is found in the collection of drawings after antique sculpture assembled by Cassiano dal Pozzo as part of his Museo Cartaceo, now in the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle (nos. 8094, 8609 and 8093). Although the Munich and Saint Petersburg panels may have been in Rome in the 17th Century, Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat consider it more likely that Poussin was inspired by Cassiano's careful copies rather than the originals, P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, op. cit., no. 211. Poussin's close study of the Museo Cartaceo in 1635-40 coincides with his work on Cassiano's commission of a series of paintings of the Seven Sacraments later in the collection of the Dukes of Rutland at Belvoir Castle.
The notes in Poussin's hand in the lower left of the present sheet record details of the Orestes and Pylades panel, apparently not copied because of lack of space. The manner of this description suggests that Poussin was not aware of the precise story, a suggestion reinforced by the reappearance of the almost identical motif of a head hanging from a branch in his designs for the grisailles in the Grande Galerie connecting the Tuilleries with the Louvre, planned in 1640-42, and known through a studio drawing in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, op. cit., no. A70. This connection led Anthony Blunt to date the present drawing to 1640, shortly before Poussin's return to Paris.


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