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The Path of Nature: Collecting Off the Beaten Path


Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man

Nicolas Poussin (French, Les Andelys 1594–1665 Rome)

Oil on canvas
49 1/2 x 65 in. (125.7 x 165.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Marquand Fund, 1924
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    At the temple in Jerusalem where the old and infirm beg alms, Peter and John cure a cripple (Acts 3:1–10): "Then Peter said, Silver and gold I have none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." The composition is indebted to Raphael, and the gestures of the central group are reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. The picture was painted for Monsieur Mercier of Lyons.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This is the latest of Poussin's three great cityscapes of the mid-1650s, each of which portrays a narrative from the New Testament against a background of massive classical architecture. The two other paintings, "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery" of 1653, and "The Death of Sapphira" of about 1654, are in the Louvre, Paris. All three are strongly influenced by the art of Raphael, in particular his tapestry cartoons of the Acts of the Apostles made for the Sistine Chapel, seven of which survive in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

    The subject of Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man, the first miracle performed by the Apostles after the death of Christ, is taken from Acts 3:1–10. At the gate of the Temple of Jerusalem a lame man begging for alms is miraculously cured by Peter, who asks him to rise up and walk, and John, who touches his arm and points to heaven—the true source of the miracle. The stairs, at the top of which this encounter is staged, are animated with carefully balanced figure groups, not unlike Raphael's 1508 fresco of the "School of Athens" (Vatican Museums). Some of the witnesses express amazement, while others simply go about their business. The young man on the second step gazing toward the right has been borrowed from Raphael's fresco. The facial type of the lame man and, to a great extent, his pose are closely modeled on the figure in Raphael's cartoon of this subject, and the hands of Saint Peter and the lame man recall those of Adam and God the Father in Michelangelo's famous "Creation of Adam" in the Sistine Chapel.

    This work is generally identified with the painting recorded by two of Poussin's early biographers as made for Monsieur Mercier, treasurer at Lyons, in 1655 (Félibien 1685 and Loménie de Brienne 1695). According to Loménie, it passed from Mercier to a Monsieur de Bordeaux, a financial official, and then to his secretary. All of this must have taken place within a brief time frame, as the picture clearly belonged to the painter Jacques Stella by 1657, the year of his death. It was one of five paintings by Poussin in his collection that are mentioned in a document of 1658 as passing to his five nieces and nephews. The picture was engraved in 1679 by one of the nieces, Claudine Bouzonnet Stella (ill. in Kurita 1999, no. 24-1).

    A replica with some variations was erroneously identified as Poussin's primary version in the nineteenth century and linked with the picture made for Mercier. Owned by Lord Radstock until his death in 1825, it was offered for sale at Christie's, London (May 12, 1826, no. 41, 46 x 68 1/2 in.), appeared in numerous sales in London in the first half of the twentieth century, and then temporarily passed out of sight. Judging from an early photograph it must be the painting that in 1971 was in the Warschaw collection, Los Angeles, and reappeared at Sotheby's, London, October 30, 2008, as no. 338. Its composition is slightly cut at the top and bottom and extended at the right. This seems likely to have been the replica made by Antoine Bouzonnet Stella and listed in the inventory of his sister Claudine. Her engraving, however, directly follows the composition of Poussin's original.

    A variation in an upright format is in the church of Saint Patrice, Rouen. Blunt (1966) provides an extensive list of copies and engravings, but does not mention Gericault's drawing after an engraving (with the composition reversed) preserved in a sketchbook in the Louvre.


  • Provenance

    Monsieur Mercier, treasurer at Lyons (1655; to Bordeaux); Monsieur de Bordeaux, Lyons (in or after 1655; given to his secretary); Secretary to Monsieur de Bordeaux, Lyons (in or after 1655); Jacques Stella, Paris (until d. 1657; his estate, 1658 [one of five paintings by Poussin bequeathed to his five nieces and nephews and mentioned in a document of August 23, 1658 as being chosen by Sébastien Bouzonnet]); his nephew, Sébastien Bouzonnet Stella, Paris (1658–d.1662); his brother, Antoine Bouzonnet Stella, Paris (by 1679–d. 1682); his sister, Claudine Bouzonnet Stella, Paris (1682–d. 1697; inv. 1693; inv. 1697, no. 207; mentioned in her will of May 3, 1693 as bequeathed to Molandier); her cousin, Anne Molandier (Mme Joseph de la Croix or Lacroix), Lyons (from 1697); Eugene, Prince of Savoy, Vienna (until d.1736); [Maria] Anna Victoria, Princess of Savoy, Vienna (1736; sold to Zanetti); Antonio Maria Girolamo Zanetti, Venice [appraiser for Savoy collection] (1736 – before 1743; ?sold to Liechtenstein); Princes of Liechtenstein, Feldsberg Castle, Valtice [now Czech Republic] and Liechtenstein Gallery, Vienna (after 1736 but by 1743–until 1924); [Durlacher, New York, 1924; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    Honolulu Academy of Arts. "Four Centuries of European Painting," December 8, 1949–January 29, 1950, no. 11.

    Art Gallery of Toronto. "Fifty Paintings by Old Masters," April 21–May 21, 1950, no. 33.

    Akron, Ohio. Akron Art Institute. "Masterpieces," September 16–October 19, 1952, no catalogue.

    Jacksonville, Fla. Cummer Gallery of Art. "The Age of Louis XIII," October 29–December 7, 1969, no. 40.

    St. Petersburg, Fla. Museum of Fine Arts. "The Age of Louis XIII," January 5–February 8, 1970, no. 40.

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665," September 27, 1994–January 2, 1995, no. 222.

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665," January 19–April 9, 1995, no. 78.

  • References

    Notarized document [the release of five paintings by Poussin from the succession of Jacques Stella]. August 23, 1658 [ Archives nationales, Paris, M. C. XLV, 204; published in Ref. Szanto 2006, p. 260], establishes that Claudine de Masso, mother and "héritière universelle" of Jacques Stella, in accordance with the latter's last will and testament, provides each of his five nieces and nephews with a painting by Poussin to be chosen from five specified works; notes that the present picture was chosen by Stella's nephew Sébastien Bouzonnet.

    André Félibien. Entretiens sur les vies et sur les ouvrages des plus excellens peintres anciens et modernes; avec la vie des architectes. 4, 2nd ed. 1685, p. 64, notes that this picture was painted in 1655 for Monsieur Mercier, Treasurer at Lyons.

    Claudine Bouzonnet Stella. Testament et inventaire des biens, tableaux, .. etc. de Claudine Bouzonnet Stella rédigés et écrit par elle-même, 1693–1697. 1693–97 [Archives nationales, Paris "dans le fonds des Commissaires au Châtelet," Y 15559; published in Ref. Guiffrey 1877], lists this picture and values it at 5000 livres; bequeaths it and two other works by Poussin to her cousin Anne Molandier in Lyon; lists two additional works by Poussin, which she bequeaths to Anne-Marie Molandier, another cousin in Lyons who predeceased her; records a replica of our picture [inv. no. 107] by her brother Antoine Bouzonnet Stella.

    Louis Henri de Loménie, comte de Brienne. Discours sur les ouvrages des plus excellens peintres anciens et nouveaux avec un traité de la peinture composé et imaginé par Mre L. H. de L. C. de B. Reclus. [ca. 1695], cols. 183bis–204, 244–46 in Ms. Bibliothèque Nationale, Anc. Saint-Germain 16986 [excerpts published in Ref. Thuillier 1960, pp. 214, 222], states that the painting made for Mercier passed to a M. de Bordeaux, a financial official, and then to his secretary, from whom the author would have bought it had the price of 20,000 francs not been so high.

    Inventory made after the death of Claudine Bouzonnet Stella, niece of Jacques Stella. October 19, 1697, no. 207 [Archives nationales, Paris, M. C., LXXXVIII, 317; see Ref. Szanto 2006] no. 207.

    Count Francesco Algarotti. Letter to the Elector of Saxony. March 30, 1743 [Sächsischen Hauptstaatsarchiv, Dresden, HStA Loc. 379, 17; published in Ref. Posse, 1931], places it in the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein and traces its early provenance; mentions a small engraving by Jean Audran in addition to one by Claudine Stella; offers it for sale on behalf of Joseph, Prince of Liechtenstein, to Augustus of Saxony [not purchased].

    C[harles]. P[aul]. Landon. "Vie et oeuvre complète de Nicolas Poussin." Vies et oeuvres des peintres les plus célèbres de toutes les écoles. 1, abridged and ill. edition. Paris, 1813, p. 4, pl. 53 (line engraving by Le Bas).

    John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. 8, London, 1837, pp. 79–80, no. 148, mentions it, in the Liechtenstein collection, as a "duplicate with some variations" of a picture with slightly different dimensions (48 x 64 in.) in the collection of William Wilkins [England], which he mistakenly considers the one painted for Mercier.

    A. Andresen. Nicolaus Poussin: Verzeichniss der nach seinen Gemälden gefertigten gleichzeitigen und späteren Kupferstiche. Leipzig, 1863, pp. 57–58, nos. 213–16, lists several engravings of our picture, including one by Claudine Bouzonnet Stella with the inscription,"N. Poussin pinxit ex musaeo Ant. Stella parisijs . . . Regis 1679"; confuses the original version bought by Mercier [ours] with the one in the Wilkins collection.

    G. F. Waagen. Die vornehmsten Kunstdenkmäler in Wien. part 1, Vienna, 1866, p. 262, notes that the hand of the lame man is reminiscent of this motif in Raphael's tapestry cartoon of the same subject [Victoria and Albert Museum, London; tapestry in Vatican Museums].

    "Testament et inventaire des biens, tableaux, .. etc. de Claudine Bouzonnet Stella rédigés et écrit par elle-même, 1693–1697." Nouvelles archives de l'art français [Archives de l'art français] 5 (1877), pp. 18, 37, 43, transcribes and annotates the inventory and will of Claudine Stella [see Ref. 1693–97] and notes that in 1679 she made an engraving of this painting; erroneously states that the picture is with Wilkins.

    Walter Friedlaender. Nicolas Poussin: Die Entwicklung seiner Kunst. Munich, 1914, pp. 123, 234, ill., considers our painting the original made for Mercier and mentions a related picture in the church of Saint Patrice, Rouen.

    Otto Grautoff. Nicolas Poussin: Sein Werk und sein Leben. Munich, 1914, vol. 1, pp. 279–80, 459 n. 281; vol. 2, pp. 236–37, no. 152, ill., lists the picture as belonging since 1760 to the Prince of Liechtenstein, then residing in the Castle of Feldsberg; considers it the work painted for Mercier, but has not yet seen it.

    Émile Magne. Nicolas Poussin, premier peintre du roi, 1594–1665. Brussels, 1914, p. 215, nos. 271–72, confuses the provenance of this and the Wilkins version and wrongly connects the Mercier picture with one in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna [with a different composition and now attributed to Bertholet Flémalle]; lists three engravings of the composition not mentioned by Andresen.

    B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Two Pictures by Poussin." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 19 (April 1924), pp. 103–5, ill.
    , accepts our picture as the original and compares it with Raphael's tapestry cartoon of the same subject [Victoria and Albert Museum, London]; notes that it entered the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein in 1750.

    Hans Posse. "Die Briefe des Grafen Francesco Algarotti an den sächsischen Hof und seine Bilderkäufe für die Dresdner Gemäldegalerie 1743–1747." Jahrbuch der preussischen Kunstsammlungen 52, Beiheft (1931), p. 39, publishes Algarotti's letter [see Refs. 1743] offering this picture for sale to Augustus of Saxony.

    Charles Sterling. "XV–XVIII Centuries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. 1, Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 72–74, ill., finds its composition characteristic of Poussin's second style of the mid-1650s; notes that "another version of this subject by Poussin, with some variations" formerly in the Wilkins collection, was sold at Christie's on June 28, 1935, as no. 102; also mentions two Poussin imitations representing the subject in an upright format, in the church of Saint Patrice, Rouen, and in Vienna [Kunsthistorischesmuseum]; cites Jacqes Stella as the owner of our painting after Mercier.

    Charles Sterling in Exposition Nicolas Poussin. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1960, p. 269, based on the comments of Loménie de Brienne [Ref. 1693–95], concludes that this painting could not have entered the Stella collection before 1679.

    Jacques Thuillier. "Pour un 'Corpus Pussinianum'." Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1960, vol. 2, p. 214 n. 23, p. 222 n. 82, publishes and annotates excerpts from Loménie de Brienne's "Discours" [Ref. about 1695], which record early provenance of this painting.

    Denis Mahon. "Poussiniana: Afterthoughts Arising from the Exhibition." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 60 (July–August 1962), p. 120.

    Doris Wild. "L''Adoration des Bergers' de Poussin à Munich et ses tableaux religieux des années cinquante." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 60 (July–August 1962), p. 232.

    Anthony Blunt. The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin: A Critical Catalogue. [London], [1966], p. 58, no. 84, ill., records the picture's provenance and the copies and engravings made after it.

    Anthony Blunt. Nicolas Poussin [The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, 1958]. New York, 1967, vol. 1, pp. 182, 215, 301, 303–4, 309; vol. 2, pls. 222–23 (overall and detail), sees the abnormally large heads and hands of the figures here as a device to gain expression without increasing movement; remarks on the rarity of such centralized compositions in Poussin's late work.

    Kurt Badt. Die Kunst des Nicolas Poussin. Cologne, 1969, vol. 1, p. 570.

    M[iklós]. Mojzer. The Warschaw Collection, Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles, 1971, unpaginated, discussed under no. 60, calls the Warschaw picture (no. 60, ill.) a 17th-century copy of ours.

    Howard Hibbard. Poussin: The Holy Family on the Steps. New York, 1974, pp. 66–67, 98 n. 46, ill., suggests that the seven steps that appear here and in other depictions of the Temple of Jerusalem by Poussin may relate to Biblical symbolism regarding that number.

    Jacques Thuillier. L'opera completa di Poussin. Milan, 1974, pp. 109, 128, no. 197, ill.

    Francis H. Dowley. "Howard Hibbard, 'Poussin: The Holy Family on the Steps,' 1974." Art Bulletin 58 (June 1976), p. 298, incorrectly dates it 1657.

    Pierre Rosenberg. Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Villa Medici. Rome, 1977, pp. 88–89, 224.

    Shuji Takashina. Poussin. Tokyo, 1977, p. 119, colorpl. 56, notes that the young man going up the steps on the right-hand side of the painting was taken from Raphael's fresco, "The School of Athens" (Vatican Museums).

    Jacques Thuillier and Claude Mignot. "Collectioneur et peintre au XVIIe siècle: Pointel et Poussin." Revue de l'art no. 39 (1978), p. 42, mention it in a discussion of the importance of financiers from Lyons as patron's of Poussin in his late period.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 328–29, fig. 591.

    Doris Wild. Nicolas Poussin: Leben, Werk, Exkurse. Zürich, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 124, 148, 162, 164, 216–17; vol. 2, p. 170, no. 184, ill.

    Claire Pace. Félibien's "Life of Poussin". London, 1981, pp. 125, 160 n. 64.3, publishes and annotates Félibien's passage refering to this painting [see Ref. Félibien 1685].

    Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1982, p. 370, no. 5, ill. [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines, Paris, 1982].

    Christopher Wright. Poussin Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné. New York, 1985, pp. 112, 229, 254, 261, 264, 277, no. 186, colorpl. 89, calls it "St. Peter Healing a Sick Man".

    Jean-Jacques Lévêque. La vie et l'oeuvre de Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1988, p. 134, ill. (color).

    Oskar Bätschmann. Nicolas Poussin: Dialectics of Painting. London, 1990, pp. 130–32, ill. (color), identifies Marcantonio Raimondi's engraving after Raphael's "Christ Teaching at the Entrance of the Temple" as a source for the composition; comments on the transformation of depth in the foreground of the picture into a flat surface in its upper portion.

    Alain Mérot. Nicolas Poussin. New York, 1990, pp. 131, 212, 216, 269, no. 96, ill., calls it "St. Peter Healing a Sick Man," and considers it one of the "finest examples of his [Poussin's] 'magnificent manner,' a harder version of the style adopted by Raphael in [his tapestry designs illustrating] the Acts of the Apostles".

    James Thompson. "Nicolas Poussin." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 50 (Winter 1992/93), pp. 2, 39–42, 44–45; ill. in color (overall and detail), considers it one of the finest examples of Poussin's complex and austere late style, which Bellori and other subsequent critics called his 'maniera magnifica' after a phrase employed by the painter himself; remarks that the hands of Peter and the lame man echo Michelangelo's hands of Adam and God on the Sistine ceiling.

    David Carrier. Poussin's Paintings: A Study in Art-Historical Methodology. University Park, Pa., 1993, p. 189.

    Pierre Rosenberg in Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1994, pp. 486–87, ill. (overall); also reproduces the engraving by Claudine Bouzonnet Stella and Géricault's drawing after our painting), claims that Poussin's source of inspiration for this composition was Marcantonio Raimondi's engraving after Raphael's Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (fig. 222c).

    Jacques Thuillier. Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1994, pp. 132–33, 146, 204, 217 n. 173, pp. 262–63, 278, no. 216; ill. (details in color; overall in black and white; engraving by Jean Pesne after head of old man at right), transcribes and annotates excerpts from Loménie de Brienne's "Discours" [see Ref Brienne about 1695], in which the early provenance of this picture is discussed.

    Richard Verdi. Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1995, pp. 294, 298, 300, no. 78, ill. (color), discusses it in the context of the cityscapes Poussin painted in the mid-1650s, suggesting it is a deliberate attempt to equal or excel Raphael's tapestry cartoons of the Acts of the Apostles; discusses the diversity of response to the miracle as characteristic of Poussin's more reflective approach to edifying themes; believes its pale and chalky hues and the large heads and hands of the figures anticipate the remote, mysterious world of his late landscapes.

    Janis Callen Bell in The Dictionary of Art. 24, New York, 1996, pp. 493–94, pl. 7 (color), suggests that Poussin was inspired by [Matteo] Zaccolini's treatises to develop a systematic approach to non-linear perspective "incorporating color, acuity and chiaroscurro gradients"; claims that this approach became the model for 17th-century French painting.

    Hugh Brigstocke. "Variantes, copies et imitations. Quelques réflexions sur les méthodes de travail de Poussin." Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665): Actes du colloque organizé au musée du Louvre par le Service Culturel du 19 au 21 octobre 1994. Paris, 1996, vol. 1, p. 221 n. 23.

    Hugh Brigstocke in The Dictionary of Art. 25, New York, 1996, p. 394.

    Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée. "Une collection d'originaux et de copies de Poussin à Paris au mileu du XIXe siècle." Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665): Actes du colloque organizé au musée du Louvre par le Service Culturel du 19 au 21 octobre 1994. Paris, 1996, vol. 2, p. 842.

    Hidenori Kurita. "A Visual Source for Poussin's 'Sts Peter and John Healing the Lame Man'." Burlington Magazine 140, no. 1148 (November 1998), pp. 747–48, ill., suggests that Philip Galle's engraving of 1558 after Maerten van Heemskerck's composition of the subject was a source of inspiration for Poussin, particularly in the figures of Saints Peter and John; comments on its relation to the Northern print tradition, to frescoes in Rome, such as Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" in the Sistine Chapel, and to Raphael's "School of Athens".

    Poussin and Raphael. Exh. cat., Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art. Nagoya, 1999, pp. 94, 95, 113, 173, no. 24–1, ill. (engraving by Claudine Bouzonnet Stella), stress Poussin's engagement with Raphael in his creation of this composition.

    Mickaël Szanto in Jacques Stella (1596–1657). Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons. Paris, 2006, pp. 250 [no. 207], 258–60, no. 7, calls it probably the picture made by Poussin for Mercier in 1655, and later with M. de Bordeaux and then his secretary [see Notes], but wonders if the chronology is inexact; notes that a new document makes it clear that this painting was owned by Jacques Stella by 1657, the year of his death, as it was among five paintings by Poussin mentioned in his will to be bequeathed to each of his five nieces and nephews; publishes this document of August 23, 1658 [see Ref. 1658], in which Claudine de Masso, the mother and 'héritière universelle" of Jacques Stella gives this painting to the nephew who chose it, Sébastien Bouzonnet.

    Marc Fumaroli. De Rome à Paris: Peinture et pouvoirs aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Dijon, 2007, p. 152, ill. p. 157 (color).

    Old Master & Early British Paintings. Sotheby's, London. October 30, 2008, p. 284, under no. 338, mentions our picture in relation to a "later copy" after it [certainly the copy in the Warschaw collection in 1971].

    Old Masters & 19th Century Art. Christie's, South Kensington. July 8, 2011, p. 20, under no. 39.

    Carla Enrica Spantigati in Le reccolte del principe Eugenio condottiero e intellettuale: collezionismo tra Vienna, Parigi e Torino nel primo Settecento. Exh. cat., Reggia di Venaria, Sale delle Arti. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2012, p. 223, no. 9, ill. (color).

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History