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Nicolas Poussin, Et in Arcadia Ego

Nicolas Poussin, Et in Arcadia Ego, 1637-38, oil on canvas, 87 x 120 cm (Musée du Louvre). Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker & Dr. Beth Harris. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • female robot ada style avatar for user Ms Jennifer
    Ok team, you know we love you guys, but this was not the best lesson you've ever presented.
    Also, since this is in the Baroque period, are you presenting this to us as a typical example of French Baroque? From this, how would we look at it and upon doing so be able to identify this as Baroque?
    And I'm disappointed that you didn't use this introductory Poussin to describe his technique in general. Many people can look at a Poussin and know instantly who the artist was.
    Can you elaborate more on his general technique and explain how/why "Et in Arcadia Ego" exemplifies this technique?
    And of all the Poussins available, out of curiosity, why did you choose this particular one?

    Grateful for more insight into this great artist.
    (6 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Jon Dough
    Isn't that a strange looking tomb? As did the Greeks or ancient Romans have tombs like that? Did anyone have tombs like that?
    (2 votes)
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    • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Karen Hendrickson
      The ancient Greeks and Romans did have similar tombs. This above-ground tomb is a sarcophagus. "Sarcophagus" is based on the Greek words for flesh eater. The special marble they were made from at first came from near Troy and was believed to have the special property of being able to consume all of the body put in it, except for the teeth, within a few weeks. The use of this kind of tomb began in Greece in about the 6th century BCE. Before that, bodies were cremated. I used Wikipedia for this information.

      There is an example of a very elaborate Roman sarcophagus in Art History: -400 CE Ancient Cultures, the Roman section -- Medea Sarcophagus 140-150 CE.

      As the focal point of the painting, the sarcophagus with its motto, is a reminder that even in life we are in the midst of death (Book of James). I think the truth of this is why the young man on the right looks so dismayed. The pensive goddess, who will not die, seems to be about to console him (she has her hand on his shoulder) but cannot deny that he will die.
      (3 votes)
  • leaf grey style avatar for user Michœl
    I've never seen footwear like what is depicted in this painting. Does anyone know what kind of footwear this is?
    (2 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Paul Frederick
    Is the painting baroque style? I have an affinity of it's essence.
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

(music) ("In The Sky With Diamonds" by Scalding Lucy) Steven: We're in the Louvre and we're looking at a Nicholas Poussin, Et in Arcadia Ego. We have four figures. We see ancient shepherds and a very Classical female figure. Beth: Clearly based on ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, as are all the figures, actually. And that treatment of the drapery that looks back to ancient Greece and the Classical period. Steven: Right in the center, the largest, most dominant form is a tomb. This huge solid block of masonry. Beth: And a figure who's pointing at it and looks back at the female figure, almost alarmed at what they're reading. Steven: There's a little ambiguity. Is it possible they're having difficulty reading? Do they not know this language? Or you're right, are they disturbed by the message? Beth: "I too am in Arcadia" meaning even death is in Arcadia. The landscape has a setting sun. There's a strong shadow on the tomb cast by the kneeling figure and there's a real sense of a poetic passage of time. Steven: That initial time is important. If you look at the tomb, it's not new. Although it's stone, it's been harmed over time and we get a sense that it is even more ancient than these ancient people. This is a bridge back in time. Poussin was so interested in the archaeology of the past. Beth: That's right. Steven: Resurrecting it through color, through form, through style and through subject. Beth: One gets a sense that in looking back by Poussin to ancient Greek and Roman culture, he must have had a sense of ... Steven: Longing for the past. Beth: And also a sense of the transience of human life and of what human being make. Steven: In a sense, the power of art to transcend time this way, both in terms of what's represented, this tomb as a kind of art. But then also, of course, this painting itself. (music) ("In The Sky With Diamonds" by Scalding Lucy)