Nicolas Poussin

The Sacrament of Ordination (1647)

About this artwork

Christ holds up the symbolic keys of heaven before presenting them to Peter his chief disciple and 'the rock' on which he will build the church. The large E on the free standing column may refer to 'Ecclesia' (The Church). The other disciples acknowledge this significant moment through their varied gestures and expressions. Poussin planned every detail to ensure a balanced composition appropriate in mood and authentic in setting. He was the first artist to paint The Seven Sacraments or rites of the Christian Church as a series of individual pictures, which he did twice. This work belongs to his second set of 1644-48, painted for Paul Freart de Chantelou.

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.