Nicolas Poussin

The Sacrament of Extreme Unction (1644)

About this artwork

Poussin represented this Sacrament of final blessing with the moving scene of a dying Christian Roman soldier anointed with holy oil by a priest. The figure group resembles a classical relief sculpture in its horizontal emphasis, while the room's central perspective provides a stage like setting. Poussin did use a model stage with wax figures to plan some of his compositions and to study the play of light and shadow. Here candle light complements the intense emotion of the scene. It was one of the first paintings completed in the artist's second series of Seven Sacraments (1644-1648) created for Paul Freart de Chantelou.

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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.