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

Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake

Oil on canvas, 119,4 x 198,8 cm
National Gallery, London

Poussin was the innovator of Classical landscape, although only about a dozen of his pictures of this type survive. Their stylistic source was the Aldobrandini Lunettes by Annibale Carracci, assisted by Domenichino and Lanfranco. Poussin abandoned many of the Italians' concessions to realism and retreated into a totally artificial world devoid of subtle light or atmosphere. The earliest of the truly Classical landscapes is probably the Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake.

In this picture a drama is taking place, but it is not immediately apparent. it was Poussin's aim to bring about this realization slowly in the spectator, through contemplation. A man lies dead in the foreground in the coils of a snake, and another man has come across the spectacle and is fleeing in terror. In the background a woman reacts to the terror of the man in flight, and in turn her reaction is noticed by a fisherman.. Poussin has depicted a series of emotions in this extensive panorama which is painted in dense blues, greens and browns. The gloom of the scene is intended to provoke the spectator to contemplate the triumph of nature over man.

The painting probably was painted for one of Poussin's main patrons, Pointel.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.