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

Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus

c. 1627
Oil on canvas, 98 x 73 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The subject is taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses (XI: 100–145). In gratitude to Midas, King of Phrygia, for saving the life of Silenus, his foster-son, Bacchus offered to grant the king whatever he wished for. Midas unwisely wished that "all that my body touches turn to gold," but was soon dying of thirst and hunger as a result. When he returned to Bacchus to ask him "to undo the favour that he had done for him," Bacchus told him to wash in the source of the Pactolus, which from that day carried grains of gold in its waters. Midas can be seen washing himself at the centre left, while the figure of a large, reclining river god, a personification of the Pactolus, dominates the foreground.