Archive for the Nicholas Poussin Category

Poussin and the Exquisite Corpse

Posted in 17th century, Exquisite Corpse, Nicholas Poussin on August 28, 2011 by babylonbaroque

In my seemingly unending love affair with Nicholas Poussin, I have been visiting my local museums paying homage to his paintings. Last weekend my search led me to the Getty Center, this week , that jewel box nestled in Pasadena, the Norton Simon. Desperate perhaps to soak up some of Poussin’s mastery, I study  his paintings very closely. There is of course his signature subtle brushwork, the quiet palette and that calm that Poussin is so well known; but I have been noticing another tendency, the Ashen Mask. By studying reproductions I first became aware of this , but when I visited the Norton Simon, I was struck by the ashen faced villain depicted in Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii.

I assume Poussin is merely depicting the Schoolmaster’s loathsome temperament by casting his face with a deathly pallor. But Poussin seems to have delighted in depicting fallen figures, often heroically , often of exquisite beauty.

Nicolas Poussin

Tancred and Erminia

c. 1634

oil on canvas

 The Barber institute of Fine Arts 

click image to enlarge, same for all subsequent images.

Capturing the vitality of the flesh seems of less importance to Poussin, he left that to Caravaggio; Poussin’s inspiration was classical Rome, his desire, to capture the grace of her antiquities. He of course succeeded, the chill is what draws me in, this reserve has me banging at his studio door wanting more, like a desperate suitor.

The door is closed, and I can only grapple with the opinions of scholars far more knowledgeable then this admirer with his schoolboy crush.

I will continue to admire, study and observe, humbled by his greatness, I hesitate to use  genius as it is so often evoked (particularly in Los Angeles),  that  the word appears trite, which would not be my intention.

I settle upon greatness.

Venus Weeping over Adonis


Musée des Beaux-Arts

 What I love is how in the same year, Poussin, used the mirrored image in his Lamentation.

Virginal  grief and erotic loss splitting our heroines with tremendous pain. The character I believe to be the Magdalene, is particularly heart wrenching.



Alte Pinakothek

The fallen son is exquisite.

Death as personified by Plague was a popular theme, not just for Poussin; it is difficult to visit any museum with a collection of   16th-17th century works and NOT encounter Rome littered with ashen infants and wailing mothers. Poussin’s depiction of Plague herself is incredible in the following painting.

The Apparition of St. Francesco Romana



This may be my favorite painting by Poussin, the Louvre link offers very interesting notes concerning the painting’s history.

An example of the aforementioned Plague genre by the master.

The Plague of Ashdod


Musée du Louvre

I will close with a few snapshots of the Norton Simon Poussin, details of the Ashen Mask.


Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii


Norton Simon

The following details offer examples of manliness untarnished by the Schoolmasters sins, their flesh robust and sound.

Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii

School begins tomorrow, I have an insane schedule, my posts may be more infrequent yet. I will try to squeeze in a few , but until that time I leave you with a link to a contemporary version of the Surrealist parlor game Exquisite Corpse. The link is epic as described, interactive and online, for those with Luddite tendencies, myself included, here is a link to the game played with traditional paper and pencil, Directions to an Exquisite Corpse.

 Until next time,

take care,

Babylon Baroque

Cy Twombly,Recquiscat in Pace

Posted in Cy Twombly, Nicholas Poussin, Raphael on July 7, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Cy Twombly, as my readers may know, my interests generally do not include much of the 20th century (excluding the first decade perhaps); Twombly was the exception.

Cy Twombly, 1966, Voque

My appreciation of Twombly’s work began  with the 10-painting cycle Fifty Days at Illiam at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I  had been ignorant of Cy Twombly, but the work instantly struck a nerve. Cool, chaste, decidedly classical, the desperate doodlings seemed to suggest long forgotten frantic pleas from the ancient past. I was only to learn later that Twombly was referencing Alexander Pope and his translation of The Illiad.

 I was hooked.

Only a few days ago the New York Times had ran an article concerning an exhibition in which Twombly’s classical paintings would be paired with the equally restrained paintings of Nicholas Poussin.

Cy Twombly was a great admirer of Poussin, having stated that “I would have liked to have been Poussin, if I’d had a choice , in another time”.

As a fellow Poussiniste, I was delighted.

Cy Twombly

Apollo and the Artist


oil paint, wax crayon, pencil and collage on paper


Nicolas Poussin

Et in Arcadia Ego 



It is  difficult not to fall for the lush beauty of the School of Athens.

Why resist?

source, NYT

It may be heretical, but I may  prefer Twombly’s to Rapheal, difficult to admit …


The School of Athens



Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican Palace

well, perhaps not more.

Thank you Mr. Twombly for such lyrical work.

Cy Twombly

b. 25th April 1925

d. 5th July 2011


Until next time,

respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

The Academy versus The Street, neo-Poussinistes versus neo-Caravaggisti

Posted in 16th cent, Andy Warhol, Babylon Beefcake, Caravaggio, Jacques Louis David, Nicholas Poussin on June 30, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I am fortunate to live in a vibrant neighbor, the Arts District of Los Angeles.

7th & Mateo St., Los Angeles

This neighborhood  may  well be  the center of Los Angeles’ Renaissance, for like 15th-16th century Florence, my neighborhood is rich with public work. On a recent jog through town I  confronted  a familiar face plastered upon a derelict wall, St Therese , lifted directly from Bernini’s masterpiece, translated from divine marble to street-worthy stencil.

I wasn’t sure what to think, I was pleased that this anonymous artist found her beautiful face as inspiring as I have ; but I am concerned that there is a lack of reverence that great art is due. We seem to live in a time and place where all imagry is up for grabs, to be clipped and pasted to suit the creator’s taste and imagination. My experience with fellow students, is a dis-regard for the source, what matters is the aesthetic appeal. This saddens and worries me, what is the relevance of great art when it is as desirable and as ephemeral as an image from advertising.

Damn you Mr. Warhol

I am concerned our cultural experience will become increasingly less rich and less rewarding. This isn’t a new argument of course, Nicholas Poussin famously complained that “Caravaggio had come into the world to destroy painting”. Poussin’s opposition to Caravaggio’s “street” art is understandable considering Poussin’s belief that “…the first requirement, which is the basis for all others, is that the subject should be great, such as battles, heroic actions and divine matters…”; Caravaggio’s saints with dirty feet would certainly have conflicted with Poussin’s directive to “disregard anything that is vulgar…” (source:Alain Merot Nicolas Poussin).

Los Angeles is in enthralled with this image of spontaneous street expression, MOCA is enjoying popular attendance with its blockbuster exhibition Art in the Streets. This enthusiasm for uninhibited (illegal ?) expression can be found elsewhere as well, Pasadena Museum of California Art has jumped on the “street” bandwagon with its current exhibition Street Cred: Graffiti Art from Concrete to Canvas ; recently there was an event downtown in which  skateboarding youth were quite literally given the streets, Wild in the Streets.

As I sit and type this I am aware of how curmudgeonly conservative I appear. I am conservative, but I do not believe that restricts my appreciation of public work with visual merit; my concern is that the traditions I most admire will be lost in a cloud of aerosol .

That said lets look at pretty pictures.


2011 (?)


7th and Mateo, Los Angeles


Work by Nomadé is difficult to not admire and enjoy, I run by examples quite frequently, particularly around the corner from my home at 7th and Mateo. The work is pasted up and requires  regular maintenance, which often translate into another arresting (no pun intended) image.




7th & Mateo


This short clip is marvelous at demonstrating the creation,  as you will see, studio preparation is  an important part of the process.

More work by Nomadé can be found at this link.

Please follow the following prompts for more examples to be found in my neighborhood, work by JR, D*Face, Shepard Farey, etc., link and link, you will be in  for a visual treat.

But for all of that robust masculine expression created by Nomadé, I must of course confess an allegiance to that monarchist traitor, Jacques Louise David .

I prefer David’s beefcake to Nomadé’s.

Jacques-Louis David ( 1748-1825)

The Intervention of the Sabine Women



oil on canvas


Can I be blamed for preferring the above to this,


I have been “crushing “on David’s noble soldiers since I was a boy, his paintings have continued to give me great joy. A joy  and satisfaction that I doubt a paste-up will be able to sustain.

Although “street” art often requires extensive preparation, this attention to detail  pales to the fifteen years David devoted to his monumental Leonidas at Thermopylae. David strove for  the “ideal beauty” the Academy and subject demanded.

Poussin may well have chided David for defying his decree that an artist must “…make every effort to avoid getting lost in minute detail, so as not to detract from the dignity of the story”, for David made many sketches reworking the composition time and again. The painting has been criticized as over-worked, but again, I am merely infatuated with the virile splendor and painterly virtuosity.

Leonides at Thermopylae


oil on canvas


Leonidas at Thermopylae


I have been in love with the soldier on Leonide’s left for decades, the timelessness of love and art.

For a higher quality image of the painting follow this Encyclopedia Britannica link .

The following are some of the examples of David’s attention to detail, both source links offer very interesting insight into David’s process, well worth a peek.

Leonides at Thermopylae

ca. 1814

black chalk, squared in black chalk

Metropolitan Museum of Art

ca. 1813


I will end this Academic love fest with just two more images ,because I can never be satisfied with less.

I appreciate your indulgence.

Study after Michelangelo


black chalk


Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces


Musée royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique

I appreciate the opportunity to rant, until next time, take care.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Feast Day of the Epiphany

Posted in Feast of the Epiphany, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Hieronymus Bosch, Nicholas Poussin, Orientalist, Sandro Botticelli on January 5, 2011 by babylonbaroque

January 6th is the feast day of the Epiphany, a time for many of us to tear down the tree, stash the glitter for our more somber decor, and with  a certain melancholy, be happy the hub-bub is over.

It is of course also when , to believers, the infant was revealed as the Son of God.

Adoration of the Magi with Saint Anthony Abbot

about 1390-1410



Getty Museum

The very word epiphany is a joy to say, it sounds magical, sacred, not of this mundane world.

Within this very special world ,where beautiful infants reveal their identity as gods, three visitors with names equally exhilarating, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar; artists have found intense inspiration. What artist can resist this scene, the mother and child, the barnyard beasts, the shepherds, and the Kings, with rare gifts, who would want to resist?

Adoration of the Magi

Georges Lallemant

before 1624

Adoration of the Magi

Francesco Bassano


The Hermitage

It is unfortunately quite doubtful that the Magi were so majestically dressed, little baby Jesus would have enjoyed the spectacle.

What we do know comes from Matthew 2:1 ,

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem”.

“From the east” is what we had to run with, and artistic  imagination certainly ran. Balthasar a striking Moor, Casper and Melchior representing Orientalist fantasies of Persia and India, all so grand.

Those far wiser then this author have suggested the Magi hailed from Persia, with connections to Zoroaster, some have suggested Babylon ( which of course I would prefer). Early images of the Magi, will often have them wearing Phrygian caps.

Roman catacomb painting



Basillica de Santa Maria Maggiore



Coming from the east, they made a pit stop at Herod’s palace,

Then Herod, when he had prively called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared”

Matthew 2:7.

Three Magi before Herod

early 15th century

Musée National du Moyen Ãge

I love how nasty Herod looks.

Adoration of the Magi

Duccio di Buoninisegna 1308-11

Museo dell ‘Opera de Duomo


” And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts;gold, and frankincense, and myrrh”

Matthew 2:11.


ca, 1200


Musée National du Moyen Ãge

Adoration of the Magi

Jean Bourdichon

Musée du Louvre


An exciting resource for images of the Magi tale is right here in LA, the Getty Museum, this link provides a handy list.

Adoration of the Magi

Gaspare Diziani


Museum of Fine Arts


Adoration of the Magi

Sandro Botticelli


Uffizi Gallery

One of my favorites,

Adoration of the Magi

Nicolas Poussin


So enchanted was Gian-Carlo Mennoti by this Bosch interpretation, he was compelled to create Amahl and the Night Visitor.

Adoration of the Magi

Hieronymous Bosch

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gian-Carlo Menotti

around 1944

b.7th July 1911

d.1st February 2007

I am familiar with this operas, I am ambivalent about the music.

My hesitations concerning this work  may be due in great part to sorrowful memories of Episcopalian amateurs caterwauling Menotti’s work; I happened to once create sets for it as my church was putting on a production.

Whatever my feelings are, I am impressed that Amahl was commissioned by NBC for its NBC Opera Theatre. I have a clip from 24th of December 1951, in which it aired on the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

Happy  Feast Day of the Epiphany !

Respectfully submitted,


Yuletide Greetings, pining for Apollo

Posted in Apollo, Francois Boucher, Nicholas Poussin, Thor, Tiepolo, YuleGoats!! on December 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As the 21st is the Winter Solstice which is to occur 6:38 pm EST, I thought a post ostensibly about the sun appropriate.

Appropriate as Los Angeles is being flooded by rains, the sun so very far away.

Appropriate as I can unearth some images of dear Apollo; my readership seems to spike when I offer  images of male pulchritude.

Apollo and the Continents

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo


The Feast of Saturnalia, traditionally  celebrated on the 17th of December, is part of a long tradition of deep winter festivities.


Antoine-François Callet

18th century

Musée de Louvre

The Roman feast devoted to Sol Invictus, a collective of sun deities, was held on the 25th of December providing a happy “bait and switch” for the early Church.


The image of halos behind  Christian saints stems from the solar rays of Sol Invictus.

The winter solstice has provided  many an excuse worldwide to celebrate;  the winter festivities of  Yule  a colorful example.

I have only just begun to understand the symbolism of the Yule tradition, but the Yule goat, familiar to any IKEA shopper this time of year stems from this winter celebration.

Santa and the Yule Goat

As I am  mad for goats, I was interested to know that the Yule Goat tradition stems from the pair of goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr who were responsible for dragging the god Thor about town.

Thor’s battle with the Ertins


Mårten Eskil Winge

As much as I adore Norse mythology,

the images are often quite chaste, ; given the cold dreariness of LA right now, I desired sensual warmth.

Hence Apollo, gotta love the Greeks.

Apollo, Poetry, & Music

Aimé Millet


Palais Garnier ,Paris


Apollo and Diana


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Apollo and Daphne

Dosso Dossi


Museo e Galleria Borghese

(That green is incredible.)

Apollo e la Sibillia Cumana

17th cent.

Giovanni Domenico Cerrini


Apollo and Two Muses


Pompeo Batoni


Apollo and Daphne


Nicolas Poussin

Apollo Revealing His Divinity to the Shepherdess Isse


Francois Boucher

I appreciate your indulgence.

I send Yuletide greetings, wishing you and your kin great happiness,

Just one more really delightful goat clip, too silly, too sweet.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Friday Frivolity

Posted in Nicholas Poussin on December 10, 2010 by babylonbaroque

After a particularly harrowing week, Moses passing into the care of Charon and finals week; I feel a well earned period of joy is due.

Date night with the Beloved perhaps an appropriate kick off…

Bacchanal before a Statue of Pan

Nicholas Poussin


National Gallery, London

Wishing  joy to all,

Babylon Baroque