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The continence of Scipio

Nicolas Poussin1640

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Moscow, Russia

In 1640 Poussin was ordered by King Louis XIV to come to Paris and produce paintings for the recently erected palace of Versailles. He did not get on well with the court, however, and returned to Italy in 1642. Henceforth his manner changed. The intellectual element, the mind, capable of regulating everything, is now contrasted even more strongly with the passions. A strict order now prevails in his works. His heroes show restraint in expressing their feelings, preferring to debate and evaluate what is taking place. The colors lose their indeterminate nature and the structure of his pictures is dictated by a clear design and local color repeated in various shades. From the ancients Poussin developed his theory of the Modes, the idea that expressive devices should correspond to the content of a work. Wisdom and nobility govern the actions of the victor of Carthage, the Roman general Scipio Africanus, who overcomes his emotions and returns his captive to her betrothed in "The Continence of Scipio" (1640). The victor is crowned with a laurel wreath not only for his military valour, but also for the good sense and generosity of his action, which is greatly appreciated by Roman warriors and Carthaginians alike.

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