Classicism was prevalent in France during the mid 1600s.  Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) contributed significantly to its spread, later influencing both 18th and 19th century painters.

Poussin studied the Italian Renaissance and was clearly influenced by Classical topics, Biblical themes, and the works of Raphael and Carracci, as he forged an individual style of rational classicism.

He painted Assumption of the Virgin (52 7/8″ x 38 5/8″) circa 1626.  This masterpiece painting is at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C… and is breathtaking to see.

Nicolas Poussin.  Assumption of the Virgin, ca. 1626. Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

David Nolta, Ph.D., Professor, Massachusetts College of Art and Design comments:

Nicolas Poussin was a French artist who spent most of his career in Rome. Though controversial in its dating, his Assumption of the Virgin is generally accepted as a relatively early work by the expatriate, painted shortly after his move to Italy.

The picture reminds us that Poussin, like his influential Italian predecessor, Annibale Carracci, took some pains to reconcile baroque dynamism with the grand symmetries and consequent harmonies of the High Renaissance masters. And so, though shown in profile, the Virgin in Poussin’s work is centrally fixed and static, and painted with a crispness that is all that the strictest classicists would have it be.

Similarly, the pillared background seems to be a more, if not yet perfectly, symmetrical revision of the setting of Titian’s Pesaro Madonna. Perhaps most striking of all is the detail of the discarded shroud, a tour-de-force of naturalism that is quintessentially and symbolically the locus of the drama and the most baroque element in the entire work.

Thank you, Dr. Nolta!