Les Andelys, France, 1594 – Rome 1665
Landscape with a Man Pursued by a Snake
Oil on canvas
65 x 76 cm
Purchase, special replacement fund, inv. 1975.15
Respected for his subtle erudition and his sober classical compositions, Poussin is considered one of the most influential artists in the history of European art. Created in Rome in the late 1630s, this work was for his friend Cassiano dal Pozzo. This painting adapts the landscape tradition of the Venetian Renaissance to evoke feelings and ideas. Against an idyllic landscape inspired by the Roman campagna, a terrified man is pursued by a snake that is poised to strike him, unnoticed by a nearby woman and fisherman. The painting thus deals with two themes of great interest to Poussin: the arbitrariness of fortune, and the passions of the soul, ranging from terror to stoic calm. Nature is shown as a source of both regeneration and destruction within the cycle of life and death.