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

Assumption of the Virgin

Oil on canvas, 134 x 98 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The authorship and the date of this painting were the subject of much discussion since the Poussin exhibition in Paris in 1960. It is now generally agreed that the painting is autograph painted in the first years of the 1630s. The most obvious pictorial sources of the composition would have been Annibale Carracci's Assumption of the Virgin (c. 1601); Domenichino's Glory of St Cecilia in the Polet Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome (1612-15); and his own Assumption on the ceiling of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome (1617). In each of these examples, the saint is carried aloft by angels and putti, but none is framed by architectural elements.

In Poussin's painting the Virgin is unusually represented in profile. The absence of the disciples gathered around the Virgin's tomb is also unusual.