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

Summer (Ruth and Boaz)

Oil on canvas, 118 x 160 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Seasons, the four canvasses of Poussin's late period now in the Louvre, are an even more extreme personal statement than the Landscape with Diana and Orion. They are the supreme expression, not in this case of mind over eye, but of praise for the beauty and grandeur of nature, now ordered by man, and now defeating man. Spring is luxuriant, Summer a fecund harvest, Autumn the gathering of mellow grapes and Winter the terrible deluge in which all mankind is overwhelmed and destroyed.

The biblical story depicted in Summer is the following.

Ruth was a Moabite woman and great-grandmother of David, and therefore an ancestress of Christ, hence her place in Christian art. She was married to a Hebrew immigrant in Moab and after his death left her native land and went with her mother-in-law Naomi, to Bethlehem. Here she was allowed to glean the corn in the fields belonging to Boaz, a rich farmer and kinsman of Naomi. Ruth, true to her nature, maintained, on Naomi's advice, a modest demeanour among the young men working at the harvest. One night she went and lay at the feet of Boaz as he slept in the field. By this act Boaz saw her virtue and later decided to assume responsibilities towards her of a kinsman. In due course he married her.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 10 minutes):
Vivaldi: Concerto in G minor RV 315 op. 8. No. 2 (Summer)