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

The Triumph of Flora

Oil on canvas, 165 x 241 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Two pictures that are very much more Venetian in their inspiration are the Munich Apollo and Daphne and the Louvre Triumph of Flora, whose subjects are taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Throughout his career Poussin liked to dwell on themes of transformation, especially those found in stories from classical antiquity. Apollo pursues Daphne, and to escape his clutches she is transformed into a laurel tree. The theme has a poetic melancholy, and this melancholy is also present to a certain extent in the much more cheerful Flora.

Flora is the ancient Italian goddess of flowers. Her triumphal procession is led by Venus, Flora rides on a chariot drawn by putti. The painting represents Poussin's first attempt to portray Flora surrounded by the individuals who, according to Ovid's Metamorphoses, turn into plants and thus form the retinue of the goddess of flowers. Although the colours have greatly darkened over the course of time, thanks to a copy in better condition in Rome, we know that the palette of The Triumph of Flora was indeed less sophisticated than that of the later Empire of Flora.