York Art Gallery

13 July – 22 September 2019

Nicolas Poussin’s The Triumph of Pan, one of the National Gallery’s most significant works, will be the centrepiece of a new exhibition at York Art Gallery this summer.

The work depicts a mythical celebration of nymphs and satyrs revelling before a statue of Pan, Greek god of the wild.
Works from York Art Gallery’s collections will complement the painting, exploring the themes within the work and Poussin’s significant influence on generations of other artists.

Fiona Green, curatorial assistant at York Art Gallery, said: “We are extremely excited to bring this incredible work to York. Poussin’s work is inspired by the classical ideals of ancient art and the formal structure and rigour of his compositions still has a profound influence on artists today.
The Triumph of Pan is one of his most famous paintings which is both beautiful and full of hidden meaning and references which encourage you to look closer. We are delighted to be able to bring this work to York as part of the National Gallery’s Masterpiece Tour 2019, sponsored by Christies.”
The exhibition will be split into two areas. The first will focus on Poussin’s life and career while the second half will explore themes within The Triumph of Pan and Poussin’s legacy. Other works will include pieces by masters such as Dughet, Bernini and Domenichino as well as paintings by, William Etty, Francesco Guardi and others.

The Masterpiece Tour is part of the National Gallery’s commitment to promote the understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of Old Master paintings to as wide an audience as possible. This opportunity is being made possible by the generous support of Christie’s.

As well as York Art Gallery, the painting has been shown at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath and after York will head to Auckland Castle, part of The Auckland Project, County Durham.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, of the National Gallery, said: “The Masterpiece Tour gives us the opportunity to share a great painting with people across the country. Poussin’s mythological masterpiece will be shown in Bath, York and Bishop Auckland where some fascinating and very varied programmes are planned. We are much looking forward to the Tour.”

Nicolas Poussin

The Triumph of Pan, 1636

This depiction of a mythical celebration shows nymphs and satyrs revelling before a statue of Pan, the Greek god of the wild. Pan’s identity in this work may have been combined with that of Priapus, a deity of gardens. Both are associated with fertility and Bacchic ritual. The painting contains a number of literary and visual references; the instruments being played, the sacrificial deer and the props in the foreground are all either attributes of Pan and Priapus, or are linked with such rites. These include panpipes, theatrical masks (comedy, tragedy and satire), and a shepherd’s staff. This picture was commissioned by Cardinal de Richelieu and dispatched from Rome to Paris in May 1636. With its companion, ‘The Triumph of Bacchus’ (Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), it was designed to form part of the decoration of the Cabinet du Roi in the Château de Richelieu. There are a number of preparatory drawings by Poussin for this painting, including some in the collection of H.M. The Queen at Windsor Castle.

Nicolas Poussin was born at Les Andelys in Normandy and first trained in Rouen. From 1612 he lived in Paris and in 1624 travelled via Venice to Rome, where he stayed for most of his life.

His sensuous early canvases such as ‘The Nurture of Bacchus’, reflect 16th-century Venetian art, especially that of Titian. He studied antique remains and his art reflects both this and an appreciation of Raphael. Poussin read ancient writers such as Ovid and attempted to recreate ancient myth and history in his works.

Poussin mainly painted easel paintings for private patrons. His larger works for Louis XIII, made from 1640 to 1642 on his return to Paris, were less successful. His scholarly patrons in Rome and Paris included Cassiano dal Pozzo and the notable art collector, Cardinal Richelieu.

Poussin sketched in the Campagna, the countryside around Rome, with Claude, and from the late 1630s began to paint landscapes. He brought a powerful discipline to the composition of his paintings, which enhanced the solemnity of their subjects. In his later years he developed an intensely personal style in his religious and allegorical works.