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

The Inspiration of the Poet

c. 1630
Oil on canvas, 183 x 213 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Poussin spent almost all his career in Rome painting in isolation. He endeavoured to create a clear visual language that would appeal to the spectator's mind and affect him rationally rather than through the emotions His oeuvre is one of the supreme expressions of classicism in French art. The subject of the Inspiration of the Poet remains under discussion: it is possible that the young man on the right, being inspired by Apollo, is Virgil, and the figure standing on the left Calliope, muse of epic poetry. In both figures there are distinct references to antique sculpture, as so often in Poussin's work, and the golden light shows the influence of the great Venetian painters of the sixteenth century.

The appearance of the muse Calliope has led to the suggestion that the picture was painted in honour of a recently dead poet.