POUSSIN, Nicolas
(b. 1594, Les Andelys, d. 1665, Roma)

The Jews Gathering the Manna in the Desert

Oil on canvas, 149 x 200 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

It was already apparent to Poussin's contemporaries that the artist had given much thought, in The Israelites Gathering Manna, to the means by which painting could unfold a sequence of events before the eyes of the viewer. The artist combines selected aspects of the biblical story into one scene, so as to illustrate the scale of the Israelites' divine rescue from hunger and misery.

This painting can be considered a variation on the Raphael fresco, The School of Athens, in the Vatican. Moses in particular, in his draperies and pointing gesture, directly cites the figure of Plato in Raphael's fresco. Poussin has simply transformed the latter's architectural backdrop into a rock formation and rotated the setting - which in the fresco lies parallel to the pictorial plane - as if on a turntable towards the right, so that it now leads away at a diagonal into the depths.