Nicolas Poussin, Self-portrait, a red chalk drawing


British Museum

British Museum

The long inscription in Italian below the drawing was written by a collector of Old Master drawings, Francesco Gabburri (1676-1742). It states that the red chalk drawing was made by Poussin (1594-1665) in front of a mirror about 1630 when he was recovering from a serious illness. The artist gave the drawing to Cardinal Camillo Massimi (1620-1677) who became one of Poussin's best patrons, buying paintings and acquiring some of his finest drawings. The artist also gave the cardinal drawing lessons.In this striking and vivid drawing, the face grimaces at the viewer. Poussin wears a bonnet, and his shirt is casually open at the neck. The long growth of his beard and his curly hair is brought out by the red chalk applied with pressure and vitality. His head and shoulders stand out against a background which is lightly shaded in long parallel strokes. The most intense shading occurs on the neck and the right side of the face. Altogether, it is a penetrating and psychological portrait.The unshaven and ill-kempt appearance of the man however, is in complete contrast to what we know of the artist, especially when compared to his painted self-portraits. The uncharacteristically realistic and dramatic style of the drawing, too, is not matched by other drawings of this period. Doubts have therefore been raised as to whether this fine drawing is of Poussin, or even by him.

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  • Title: Nicolas Poussin, Self-portrait, a red chalk drawing
  • Date Created: 1630/1630
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 256.00mm; Width: 197.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: drawn
  • Subject: self-portrait
  • Registration number: 1901,0417.21
  • Producer: Drawn by Poussin, Nicolas
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Colnaghi. Previous owner/ex-collection Massimi. Previous owner/ex-collection Gabburri, Francesco Maria Niccol. Previous owner/ex-collection