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

Holy Family on the Steps

Oil on canvas, 73 x 106 cm
Museum of Art, Cleveland

Dating from his mature period, this canvas reflects in its figural arrangement a thorough study of such High Renaissance artists as Raphael and Andrea del Sarto, while the background reveals Possin's genius in adapting classical architecture to a religious theme. Concerned with achieving a perfectly harmonized composition, the artist has contained the figures within a triangular format; the heads of the Virgin and the Christ Child being at the apex of this pyramid. Although Poussin, the son of a minor government official in Normandy, spent almost the whole of his adult life in Rome, he was held in the highest esteem in France, and more than any other single figure, influenced the course of the seventeenth-century French painting.