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

The Seven Sacraments II: Ordination

Oil on canvas, 117 x 178 cm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

The comparison of the two versions of the Ordination clearly shows the change in Poussin's method in the 1640s. In the first the apostles are arranged in a long row in the very front of the composition with the principal group, consisting of Christ and St Peter, on the extreme left. Behind them the landscape closes the picture like a backcloth.

In the second version Poussin has used a quite different compositional method. Christ stands in the middle of the picture with St Peter kneeling at his feet and facing into the composition. The apostles are arranged in two groups at the sides, and forms a sort of avenue, leading up to the central group and also establishing a much greater depth in the composition than in the earlier version. Behind them is a landscape which is no longer a backcloth but is planned in three dimensions. To the left is a hill crowned with buildings, and on the right a temple surrounded by smaller buildings. These two blocks, defining the middle distance, are joined by a bridge, which runs parallel with the picture plane and almost closes the composition. The landscape, punctuated by architectural features, is a three-dimensional space, analogous in its form to the groups of the apostles in the foreground.

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