THERE IS A MAJESTY AND TREMENDOUS SENSE OF STORYTELLING
Sea had very meticulous techniques and strict adherence to anatomical correctness but this was such a tedious, time-consuming practice that most artists would have not bothered.
First, Poussin drew all his figures nude and then gradually added the clothing afterwards. He also made three-dimensional working wax models of all the figures. He even developed more sophisticated bozzetti or sculptures so he could get the groupings of people right. He made every gesture count towards the telling of the story.
The painting is also surrounded by what must be one of the most eye-catching frames. Extremely ornate and in the rococo style, this splendid and much admired frame dates from about 1710 and has also been restored recently.
Matthiesson says she considers Poussin similar to the composer Bach in the way both combine beauty and feeling with logic.
‘‘ I feel a sense of great pleasure and relaxation when a great artist can control so many unruly and emotional elements, and I think you get that every time with Poussin,’’ she says.
‘‘ There is a majesty and tremendous sense of storytelling coming out of his paintings. You feel like you have been on a journey and there has been excitement and drama, but you always have a sense that he knows where he is taking you.
‘‘ Poussin has a very erudite taste and it assumes a lot of prior knowledge on the part of viewers, but it rewards anyone who wants to compare the biblical and classical sources with the picture because you gain an admiration of Poussin’s subtlety and interpretation.’’
Oil on canvas, 155.6cm by 215.3cm