Artibus et Historiae no. 86 (XLIII)

2022, ISSN 0391-9064

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HERBERT MORRIS - Nicolas Poussin’s Winter: The Poetry of Darkness and Light (pp. 145–171)

An interpretative consensus on the meaning attributable to Nicolas Poussin’s masterpiece, Winter, has been reached by art historians, especially in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries when serious concern with interpretation arose. This interpretative perspective has the following features: 1) the painting is a pictorial representation of the Biblical story of Noah and the Flood; 2) symbolically, it represents the Last Judgment, those aboard the ark prefigure those who gain salvation, those in the lower portion of the painting, the damned; 3) the painting is, then, to be seen as representing a single time period, the time of the Last Judgment; 4) no significance is attributable to any of the human figures apart from their being damned. This essay challenges every one of these interpretative claims by closely examining the illumination in the painting and several of the human figures. The painting represents two time periods, the Old Testament in the upper portion, the New Testament in the lower portion. The essay concludes that the currently accepted claims cannot be sustained, and it offers a new interpretation that takes seriously the so far neglected lower portion of the painting.

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