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

Stormy Landscape with Pyramus and Thisbe

1651
Oil on canvas, 192,5 x 273,5 cm
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

The two Phocion landscapes are extreme, but Poussin was to take his ideas even further, in such almost black pictures as the Landscape with Pyramus and Thisbe in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut at Frankfurt. In this picture the thoughts of the artist are so prominent that the spectator is denied any form of visual pleasure, and it requires a great deal of mental effort to contemplate it.

This painting is one of the few large-scale works of the master. It depicts the story of Pyramus and Thisbe as Ovid tells in Metamorphoses (4:55-166). The lovers , forbidden by their parents to marry, planned to meet in secret one night beside a spring. Thisbe arrived first but as she waited a lioness, fresh from a kill, came to quench its thirst, its jaws dripping blood. Thisbe fled, in her haste dropping her cloak which the beast proceeded to tear to shreds. When Pyramus arrived and discovered the bloody garment he believed the worst. Blaming himself for his lover's supposed death he plunged his sword into his side. Thisbe returned to find her lover dying and so, taking his sword, threw herself upon it. This story became widely popular in post-Renaissance painting.