Nicolas Poussin

The Sacrament of Marriage (1647 - 1648)

About this artwork

Poussin illustrated the Sacrament of Marriage by showing the fictional betrothal of the Virgin Mary to Joseph. Marriage is considered a sacrament in the Christian faith (an outward sign of inner grace), but is different from the other sacraments, as it involves the mutual consent of two parties. The couple’s union is divinely regulated by God. In this picture, Poussin depicted Joseph placing the ring on the Virgin’s finger. Joseph still holds the flowering rod, which had distinguished him from the other men as the most appropriate suitor for Mary. This painting was greatly admired by the artist Bernini when he saw it in Paris in the 1660s. He particularly liked the mysterious veiled woman behind the pillar on the far left of the composition and remarked on the priest’s lack of ceremonial vestments.

Nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin

Poussin aimed to achieve a pure and noble style of painting inspired by the classical ideals of ancient art and the work of Raphael. Born in Normandy, he trained in Paris before arriving in Rome in 1624. Apart from a brief return to Paris (1640-42) he remained in Rome. He did not employ assistants and preferred painting for private patrons, Italian and French, who shared his scholarly and artistic interests. His work exerted a profound influence on French academic painting. The formal structure and rigour of his compositions, however, has continued to inspire modern artists.