A Roman Road – (Nicolas Poussin) Previous Next


Topic: Roads Italy

Date: 1648

Size: 78 x 99 cm

Museum: Dulwich Picture Gallery (London, United Kingdom)

Technique: Oil On Canvas

This landscape has been identified as Poussin's canvas of 1648, recorded by Andr‚ F‚libien (1685) in the collection of Philippe de Lorraine in Paris. F‚libien described the picture as 'a landscape where there is a broad road.' This 'broad road' divides the scene in half, and a series of small figures - both male and female - travel along it. Two are resting in the right foreground, while a man on the left seems to be picking up an orange that has just fallen from the tree above. In the background, a small town is likely to be the aim of the travellers. Even though the structure to the right is clearly based on a medieval ecclesiastical building, the figures' costumes and the column at the end of the road suggest that the scene is set in classical antiquity. Unless the painting was meant to have a specific, and now misinterpreted, meaning, it is most likely an idealized representation of a landscape from Roman antiquity. The work has long been believed to be the pendant to the 'Landscape with a Man Washing his Feet at a Fountain', also known as the 'Greek Road', in the National Gallery, London. Both were presented as a set for the first time in two engravings by Tienne Baudet in 1684. Since then art historians have discussed the meaning of the two canvases together. The paintings have been seen as representations of untamed and wild nature (National Gallery) contrasted with cultivated and civilized countryside (Dulwich); more famously, Elizabeth Cropper and Charles Dempsey (1996, p. 289) have identified the canvases as 'the very earliest examples of an attempt to distinguish and contrast the appearances of Greek and Roman civilizations.'

This artwork is in the public domain.



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