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

The Death of Germanicus

Oil on canvas, 148 x 198 cm
Institute of Arts, Minneapolis

The first important commission Poussin received was from Cardinal Francesco Barberini at the end of 1626, for the Death of Germanicus. The picture, now in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, was completed early in 1628 and immediately became famous. The subject was inspired by the 'Annals' of Tacit. This was the first of the deathbed scenes that Poussin was to favour throughout his life. The figures are arranged in a frieze-like composition which was almost certainly derived from the arrangement of figures on classical sarcophagi. Already, too, there is a preoccupation with classical antiquity and its intensely moral approach to life. In his pictures Poussin was to become obsessed by morality, and with man facing the supreme trial: how to face death with equanimity.