For his depiction of the gigantic hunter, painted for Michel Passart, Poussin drew on the Greek writer Lucian: "Orion who is blind, is carrying Cedalion, and the latter, riding on his back, is showing him the way to the sunlight. The rising sun is healing [his] blindness." Poussin also studied the sixteenth-century commentary on the tale by Natalis Comes that affords a meteorological interpretation. He therefore added Diana, standing upon the clouds that wreathe Orion’s face, symbol of the power of the moon to gather the earth’s vapors and turn them into rain.
In the most familiar variant of the Orion myth the gigantic hunter was blinded by Oenopion, king of the island of Chios, after Orion attacked Oenopion's daughter Merope in a moment of drunkenness. Driven from the island, Orion found his way to Lemnos where Hephaestus, the lame blacksmith of the gods, had his servant Cedalion guide him to the East where the sun would heal him. In a later development, Orion is killed by the huntress Diana for reasons that vary widely. This simple narrative, however, cannot account for many details in Poussin's composition, in particular the presence of Diana who watches Orion's progress benevolently from the storm clouds which veil his sight.
In an article of 1944 that has influenced all subsequent scholarship, Ernst Gombrich argued for interpreting the subject of the picture in allegorical terms. He identified the direct literary source as a hypothetical description of a fresco in a nobleman's home found in the writings of Lucian (Greek, A.D. 125–180, De domo: 27–29): "Orion, who is blind is carrying Cedalion, and the latter, riding on his back, is showing him the way to the sunlight. The rising sun is healing the blindness of Orion, and Hephaestos views the incident from Lemnos." It was, however, in Natale Conti's Latin edition of Mythologiae—the standard source for classical mythology in Poussin's day—that Gombrich found a closer link with the painting's composition and the key to its extraordinary suggestiveness. Conti follows an alternative, pseudo-meteorological interpretation of the myth, in which Orion was fathered by Neptune, Jupiter, and Apollo (or the elements of Water, Air, and Fire). "The better to understand the formation of the elements, of the winds, and of that which is produced in the celestial regions," he writes, "we are introduced to Orion, . . . who is nothing but the stuff of the winds, the rain, and the thunder and lightning . . ." Everything is assembled from these elements; sea water is transformed by the sun (Apollo), which elevates the vapors into the air; Diana (who killed Orion because he dared to touch her) gathers up these vapors and "converts them into rains and storms thus overthrowing them with her arrows and sending them downwards." Conti's Orion story is, to quote Gombrich, an allegory of "the drama of the circulation of water in nature." It is the reason for the prominence of the vapors rising from the lower right.
Other sources for the composition have also been suggested. In a recent swing of the pendulum from the long-held view of Poussin as a cerebral painter with a deep knowledge of early Latin texts, Van Helsdingen (2002) is inclined to limit Poussin's sources for the Orion composition to the French editions of Natale Conti's Mythologiae and Philostratus's Imagines (for the figure of Cedalion carried on Orion's shoulders). Both were available in Rome at the time. Badt (1969) challenged Gombrich's interpretation in a more fundamental way, believing that Poussin conceived the subject in a spirit counter to that of Conti and, here as elsewhere in his paintings, intended the depiction of myth as a concrete reality rather than the visualization of allegory. In his view, Poussin intended the cloud with Diana standing on it to be understood as the unhappy fate hanging over the giant—that is, his future death at Diana's hands. The emphasis for Badt is on Poussin’s reanimation of the power of classical divinity, not the disenchanted interpretation of ancient myth put forward by Conti.
According to Poussin's early biographer and close friend André Félibien (1685), this picture, for which he implies a date of 1658, was the single work that Poussin made for Michel Passart, the wealthy Parisian finance minister who owned at least seven paintings by the artist. This suggests that the collector may have played some role in the unusual choice of subject. We know that Passart owned a second late landscape by Poussin, the Landscape with a Woman Washing her Feet (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa), and his remarkable interest in landscape painting is evident in an inventory made at the time of his wife's death in 1684.
The painting has inspired the passionate admiration of poets as well as—as indicated above—intense scholarly debate. In an 1822 article dedicated to the picture, the English essayist and critic William Hazlitt wrote that "[the picture] breathes the spirit of the morning; its moisture, its repose, its obscurity, waiting the miracle of light to kindle it into smiles; the whole is, like the principal figure in it, 'a forerunner of the dawn.'" And, he continues, "one feeling of vastness, of strangeness, and of primeval forms pervades the painter's canvas, and we are thrown back upon the first integrity of things." The young John Keats, strongly influenced by Hazlitt, must refer to the picture in Book 2 of his 1818 poem Endymion: "Or blind Orion hungry for the moon."
As is typical of Poussin's late landscapes, the technique is almost pointillist, due to his failing eyesight, and perhaps due also to a shaking hand. The muted effect is particularly appropriate to the meditative, searching quality of these late masterpieces.
A copy of the painting was sold at Christie's, Rome, November 29–30, 1993, no. 228.
[Mary Sprinson de Jesús 2010; updated by Keith Christiansen and Adam Eaker 2016]
Michel Passart, Paris (1658–at least 1684 [d. 1692]; inv., February 14–26, 1684 [following the death of Mme Passart in November 1683, who left a half share of the paintings that belonged to the couple to their son, Antoine-Michel], probably one of the two landscapes by Poussin, nos. 43 and 46, valued at 1500 livres each); possibly his son, Antoine-Michel Passart, Paris (d. 1684); Pierre de Beauchamp, Paris (by 1687); private collection, Paris (until 1739; sold for 600 livres to Godefroy and Godefroid); [Charles Godefroy and Ferdinand-Joseph Godefroid, Paris, 1739–43; sold for 950 livres to Hay]; [Andrew Hay, London, 1743–45; his sale, Cock, London, February 14–15, 1745, no. 46, for £31.10.0 to Rutland]; John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland, Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Leicestershire (1745–58; his sale, London, [dates unknown] 1758, no. 60, for £53.11 to Reynolds); Sir Joshua Reynolds, London (from 1758; sold for 500 gns. to Calonne); Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, Paris (until 1795; sale, Skinner and Dyke, London, March 23–28, 1795, no. 98, as purchased from Sir Joshua Reynolds, for £131.5 to Bryan [i.e., bought in by Calonne's mortgagees]); Bryan's Gallery (sale by private treaty, April 27, 1795, no. 135); Noël Desenfans (sale of pictures bought by him for the King of Poland, Skinner and Dyke, London, March 16–18, 1802, no. 172, for £157.10 to Potts [bought in?]); [Philippe Panné, London, until d.; sale of his remaining stock, Christie's, London, March 26, 1819, no. 63, for £116.11 to Bonnemaison]; chevalier Férréol de Bonnemaison, Paris (1819–20; sold for 600 livres); Reverend John Sanford, vicar of Nynehead Court, Somerset (1820–at least 1847; cats., 1838, no. 184, and 1847, p. 9); his son-in-law, Frederick Henry Paul Methuen, 2nd Baron Methuen [who married Anna Horatia Caroline Sanford], Corsham Court, Chippenham Wiltshire (by 1857–d.1891); their son, Paul Sanford Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen, Corsham Court, Chippenham Wiltshire (1891–about 1924; cat. 1903, p. 60; sold to Durlacher with Tancred Borenius as intermediary); [Durlacher, London and New York, 1924; sold to MMA]
London. British Institution. 1821, no. 15 (lent by the Rev. John Sanford).
London. British Institution. 1839, no. 10 (lent by the Rev. John Sanford).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1877, no. 259 (lent by Lord Methuen).
Art Gallery of Toronto. "The Classical Contribution to Western Civilization," December 15, 1948–January 31, 1949, not in catalogue [apparently shown only in Toronto].
Detroit Institute of Arts. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 2–28, 1951, no catalogue.
Art Gallery of Toronto. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 14–December 12, 1951, no catalogue.
City Art Museum of St. Louis. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 6–February 4, 1952, no catalogue.
Seattle Art Museum. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," March 1–June 30, 1952, no catalogue.
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Exposition Nicolas Poussin," May–July 1960, no. 113.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Splendid Century, French Art: 1600–1715," March 8–April 30, 1961, suppl. no. 175.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 48.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 48.
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "La Peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines," January 29–April 26, 1982, no. 94.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections," May 26–August 22, 1982, no. 94.
Art Institute of Chicago. "France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections," September 18–November 28, 1982, no. 94.
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665," September 27, 1994–January 2, 1995, no. 234.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665," January 19–April 9, 1995, no. 84.
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. "Poussin y la naturaleza," October 8, 2007–January 13, 2008, no. 63.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions," February 12–May 11, 2008, no. 63.
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Poussin et Dieu," March 30–June 29, 2015, no. 94.
Gio[vanni]. Pietro Bellori. Le vite de' pittori, scultori e architetti moderni. Rome, 1672, p. 455, describes a painting made for Michel Passart by Poussin with "la favola d'Orione, cieco gigante, la cui grandezza si comprende da un omaccino che lo guida in piè sopra le sue spalle, ed un altro l'ammira" [the Legend of Orion, the blind giant, whose great size you can grasp by contrast with the little figure who guides him, standing on his shoulders, and another who looks at him].
André Félibien. Entretiens sur les vies et sur les ouvrages des plus excellens peintres anciens et modernes; avec la vie des architectes. Vol. 4, 2nd ed. 1685, p. 66, describes it as a large painting representing Orion blinded by Diana, made for Passart, and places it after a picture he dates 1658 and before one he dates 1659.
Germain Brice. Description nouvelle de ce qu'il y a de plus remarquable dans la ville de Paris. 1st ed. 1687, vol. 1, p. 51 [excerpt published in Ref. Thuillier 1994, p. 197], places it in the collection of [Pierre de] Beauchamp [Maître des Ballets du Roi (d. 1705)].
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. 244–46, Ms. Bibliotheque nationale anc. Saint-Germain 16986; this excerpt published in Ref. Thuillier 1994, p. 204].
Florent Le Comte. Cabinet des singularitez d'architecture, peinture, sculpture, et graveure, ou introduction à la connaisance des plus beaux arts. Vol. 3, Paris, 1700, p. 39, as Poussin's "Orion Blinded by Diana," made for Passart.
Account book (1738–48) of the art dealers Charles Godefroy and Ferdinand-Joseph Godefroid. May 22, 1748 [Archives nationales, Paris, Minutier central, XCVII, 316, May 22, 1748; published by François Marandet, Burlington Magazine 150 (August 2008) pp. 526–28; our painting is mentioned on p. 528], list among a group of pictures purchased in Paris on March 31, 1739, what must be our Blind Orion: "no. 53. Poussin, Païsage," purchased for 600 livres, and sold on "21 8bre 1743" to M. Hay, Anglais for 950 livres.
Sir Joshua Reynolds. Manuscript. in or after 1758 [ms. in Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Paul Mellon Collection; relevant paragraph(s) cited in Ref. Broun 1987, pp. 209–10], states that the subject of this picture is taken from "Hyginus's 'de signis coele(s)tibus'".
Noël Desenfans. A Descriptive Catalogue . . . of Some Pictures Purchased for His Majesty the Late King of Poland. 3rd ed. 1802, vol. 1, p. 123.
William Hazlitt. "On a Landscape of Nicolas Poussin." Table-Talk; or, Original Essays. Vol. 2, London, 1822 [1908 ed., London, pp. 168–74], in a poetic essay describing this picture, states that "nothing was ever more finely conceived or done".
W[illiam]. Buchanan. Memoirs of Painting, with a Chronological History of the Importation of Pictures by the Great Masters into England since the French Revolution. London, 1824, pp. 254–55, no. 98, notes that the painting was "sold a few years ago at Mr. Christie's, and was purchased by Monsieur Bonnemaison, who carried it to Paris".
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 8, London, 1837, pp. 164–65, no. 324, provides detailed provenance for this picture; mentions "other deities" in the clouds with Diana.
[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain. London, 1857, p. 396, mentions it as in the collection at Corsham Court, near Chippenham, the seat of Lord Methuen; claims that Mr. [?sic for Rev.] Sandford [sic for Sanford] brought this picture to England in 1820 and that it was painted by Poussin for Passart in 1658; erroneously states that Joshua Reynolds acquired this picture from Calonne rather than the reverse.
A. Andresen. Nicolaus Poussin: Verzeichniss der nach seinen Gemälden gefertigten gleichzeitigen und späteren Kupferstiche. Leipzig, 1863, p. 121 [see Ref. Sterling 1955], mentions it, then in the Sanford collection, among the paintings by Poussin that were not engraved.
Edmond Bonnaffé. Dictionnaire des amateurs français au XVIIe siècle. Paris, 1884, p. 242, places this picture, once owned by Passard [sic for Passart], in the collection of Lord Methuen.
Otto Grautoff. Nicolas Poussin: Sein Werk und sein Leben. Munich, 1914, vol. 1, p. 258; vol. 2, p. 259.
Walter Friedlaender. Nicolas Poussin: Die Entwicklung seiner Kunst. Munich, 1914, p. 124, dates it 1658.
Émile Magne. Nicolas Poussin, premier peintre du roi, 1594–1665. Brussels, 1914, p. 202, no. 87.
William T. Whitley. Art in England, 1800–1820. Cambridge, 1928, p. 32.
Tancred Borenius. "A Great Poussin in the Metropolitan Museum." Burlington Magazine 59 (November 1931), pp. 206–8, ill.
Walter Friedlaender inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 27, Leipzig, 1933, p. 326.
Sacheverell Sitwell. Canons of Giant Art: Twenty Torsos in Heroic Landscapes. London, 1933, pp. 20–36, 191–93, publishes two poems and notes about this picture.
Ellis K. Waterhouse. "Italian Baroque Painting, Lectures 1 and 2." Journal of the Royal Society of Arts 85 (September 24 and October 1, 1937), pp. vii, 1011, calls this picture "very nearly a pure landscape . . . a faithful account of the crags and deep valleys of the Sabine hills".
Anthony Blunt. "The Heroic and the Ideal Landscape in the Work of Nicolas Poussin." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 7 (July–December 1944), pp. 165, 167–68, pl. 42a, considers the "special allegorical meaning" that Gombrich [Ref. 1944] finds in our picture characterisic of other late works by Poussin, in particular his "Birth of Bacchus" in the Fogg Art Museum, Boston, which also takes an esoteric version of a traditional mythological theme and creates an allegory of a basic fact about the natural world; states that in Conti's [alt. spelling for Comes] modification of the myth Orion was blinded by Diana.
E. H. Gombrich. "The Subject of Poussin's 'Orion'." Burlington Magazine 84 (February 1944), pp. 37–41, ill. [reprinted in E. H. Gombrich, Symbolic Images in the Art of the Renaissance, 1972, pp. 119–228, ill.], remarks [incorrectly; see Ref. Sterling 1955] that Poussin seems to have been the first, if not the only, artist to paint the story of Orion; identifies Lucian's remarks about a painting in a "rhetorical description of a Noble Hall" as Poussin's immediate source for this image: "Orion who is blind is carrying Cedalion, and the latter, riding on his back, is showing him the way to the sunlight. The rising sun is healing the blindness of Orion, and Hephaestos views the incident from Lemnos"; sees Natalis Comes's interpretation of the legend of Orion in his "Mythologiae" as an additionanl inspiration for Poussin: according to an apocryphal story, Orion was fathered by Neptune (water), Jupiter (air) and Apollo (the sun), and his legend thus represents "the drama of the circulation of water in nature"; notes that Comes's commentary would explain the presence of Diana, rather than Hephaestos as Orion's witness, for, according to Comes, "They say that he [Orion] was killed by Diana's arrows for having dared to touch her—because as soon as the vapours have ascended to the highest stratum of the air so that they appear to us as touching the moon or the sun, the power of the moon gathers them up and converts them into rains and storms thus overthrowing them with her arrows and sending them downwards . . ."; interprets the "long-stretched stormcloud through which the giant is striding . . ." as "none other than Orion himself in his 'real' esoteric meaning".
[Tancred Borenius]. "The History of Poussin's 'Orion': A Postscript." Burlington Magazine 84 (February 1944), p. 51, reviews the picture's provenance in detail.
Thérèse Bertin-Mourot. "Addenda au Catalogue de Grautoff, despuis 1914." Bulletin de la Société Poussin second cahier (December 1948), p. 54, no. 38, ill.
Anthony Blunt. "Poussin Studies IV: Two Rediscovered Late Works." Burlington Magazine 92 (February 1950), p. 40.
Anthony Blunt. Art and Architecture in France, 1500 to 1700. Baltimore, 1953, p. 194.
Fred Stephen Licht. Die Entwicklung der Landschaft in den Werken von Nicolas Poussin. Basel, 1954, p. 171.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 74–76, ill., states that this subject had already been treated in the sixteenth century by painters of the school of Fontainebleau, and that in Poussin's own time it appeared in engravings by Jacques Bellange and in decorative paintings at the château de Mornay in Charente.
Benedict Nicolson. "The Sanford Collection." Burlington Magazine 97 (July 1955), p. 207.
André du Bouchet. "The Artist His Own Demi-god." Art News 57 (January 1959), p. 36.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. The Splendid Century: French Art, 1600–1715. Exh. cat.Washington, 1960, supplement, pp. 6–7, no. 175.
Anthony Blunt inExposition Nicolas Poussin. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1960, pp. 138–40, no. 113, credits Gombrich [see Ref. 1944] for tracing Poussin's source for this allegory to Cartari [error or alternate name for Natalis Comes?].
Henry Bardon. "Poussin et la littérature latine." Nicolas Poussin. Ed. André Chastel. Paris, 1960, vol. 1, pp. 128–29, considers it possible that Poussin used the ancient Roman mythographer Hyginus as his source.
Anthony Blunt in "État présent des études sur Poussin." Nicolas Poussin. Ed. André Chastel. Paris, 1960, vol. 1, pp. XX–XXI, XXIII–XXIV, mentions the Italian philosopher Tommaso Campanella, a contemporary of Poussin's, as a possible source for the allegory of rain in the form of the Orion myth, specifically in Campanella's "Cité du soleil" [published 1602].
Anthony Blunt. "The Literature of Art: Colloque Nicolas Poussin ." Burlington Magazine 102 (July 1960), p. 330.
Pierre du Colombier. "The Poussin Exhibition." Burlington Magazine 102 (July 1960), p. 288, observes that the picture "will always be more highly esteemed by iconographers than by painters".
Georg Kauffmann. "Poussins letztes Werk." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 24, no. 2 (1961), pp. 101–2, 114, cites as another earlier treatment of the subject Giorgio Ghisi's engraving after Penni's Orion (Bartsch, XV, no. 43).
Michael Kitson. "The Relationship between Claude and Poussin in Landscape." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 24, no. 2 (1961), p. 144 [reprinted in "Studies on Claude and Poussin," London, 2000, p. 38].
Denis Mahon. "Réflexions sur les paysages de Poussin." Art de France 1 (1961), p. 125, arranges Poussin's landscapes chronologically, placing this picture just after the "Bacchus" in the Fogg Museum, Boston.
Denis Mahon. "Poussiniana: Afterthoughts Arising from the Exhibition." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 60 (July–August 1962), pp. 121, 129.
Walter Friedlaender. "Poussin's Old Age." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 60 (1962), pp. 253–55, ill.
Denis Mahon. "A Plea for Poussin as a Painter." Walter Friedlaender zum 90. Geburtstag. Berlin, 1965, pp. 132–33, 142 n. 95.
Anthony Blunt. Nicolas Poussin. Vol. 7, London, , pp. 5–6, ill.
Anthony Blunt. The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin: A Critical Catalogue. [London], 1966, p. 122, no. 169, ill.
Anthony Blunt. Nicolas Poussin. New York, 1967, vol. 1, pp. 4–5, 214, 299, 313, 315–16, 319, 323, 326–27, 331, 334 n. 8, 354, 356; vol. 2, pls. 237–38 (overall and detail), groups it among Poussin's late landscapes, in which "man has ceased to play any part, and the sole theme is the power and fertility of nature".
Jennifer Montagu. "The Painted Enigma and French Seventeenth-century Art." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 31 (1968), p. 332.
Kurt Badt. Die Kunst des Nicolas Poussin. Cologne, 1969, vol. 1, pp. 541–43; vol. 2, pl. 176, challenges Gombrich's interpretation (1944) of the subject, claiming that Poussin intended the cloud with Diana standing on it to be understood as the unhappy fate hanging over the giant, that is, his death at Diana's hands; believes Poussin conceived the subject in a spirit counter to that of Conti [alt. spelling for Comes], i.e., his emphasis is on the depiction of myth as a concrete reality and not the visualization of allegory.
Rensselaer W. Lee. "Walter Friedlaender, 'Nicolas Poussin, A New Approach,' 1966." Art Bulletin 51 (September 1969), p. 302.
Jacques Thuillier. Nicolas Poussin. Novara, 1969, pp. 32, 41, 90, 104, 136, no. 98, colorpls. XXI–XXII (details), fig. 98.
Albert Châtelet inPeintures de l'école française: Chantilly–Musée Condé. Paris, 1970, unpaginated, discussed under cat. no. 33.
Claude Simon. Orion aveugle. Geneva, 1970, pp. 127–31, ill. in color (overall and detail on front cover).
Jacques Thuillier. L'opera completa di Poussin. Milan, 1974, p. 110, no. 205, ill.
Luigi Salerno. Pittori di paesaggio del Seicento a Roma; Landscape Painters of the Seventeenth Century in Rome. Rome, 1976–80, vol. 1, p. 366.
Pierre Rosenberg. Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Villa Medici. Rome, 1977, p. 238.
Shuji Takashina. Poussin. Tokyo, 1977, p. 120, pl. 60 (color).
Denys Sutton. "Tancred Borenius: Connoisseur and Clubman." Apollo 107 (April 1978), p. 298, notes that Borenius bought this picture for Lord Harewood, who turned it down, and that he then sold it to the MMA.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 311, 329, fig. 556 (color).
Doris Wild. Nicolas Poussin: Leben, Werk, Exkurse. Zürich, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 167, 169–70, 188, 204, 212; vol. 2, p. 186, no. 198, ill.
Richard Verdi. "Hazlitt and Poussin." Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin no. 32 (1981), pp. 6–9, 16, 18, fig. 2, discusses Poussin's critical reception and the difference in response to the intuitive, more poetic compositions of his early and late career, as compared with better known—more classical and tightly designed—works of his mid-career.
Claire Pace. Félibien's Life of Poussin. London, 1981, p. 161 n. 66.3, publishes and annotates Félibien's remarks about this picture [see Ref. 1685].
Anik Devries. "Sébastien Erard, un amateur d'art du début du XIXe siècle et ses conseillers." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 97 (February 1981), p. 83.
Jean-Pierre Cuzin. "New York: French Seventeenth-century Paintings from American Collections." Burlington Magazine 124 (August 1982), p. 529, as "without doubt, the most beautiful picture in the exhibition".
H. Diane Russell. Claude Lorrain, 1600–1682. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1982, p. 461.
Hugh Brigstocke. "France in the Golden Age." Apollo 116 (July 1982), pp. 8, 14, ill., describes this painting as "anti-classical in form and openly pantheistic and irrational in spirit".
Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1982, pp. 33, 88, 314–15, 370, no. 94, ill. pp. 100 (detail), 101 (color), and 314 [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines, Paris, 1982], calls it "incontestably one of Poussin's masterpieces".
Elizabeth K. Helsinger. Ruskin and the Art of the Beholder. Cambridge, Mass., 1982, pp. 176–79, 184, pl. 12, discusses Hazlitt's essay on the picture [see Ref. 1844].
Christopher Wright. Poussin Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné. New York, 1985, pp. 106, 114, 216, no. 165, colorpl. 184.
Paola Santucci. Poussin: tradizione ermetica e classicismo gesuita. Salerno, 1985, pp. 78–79, fig. 40.
Ann Sutherland Harris. Landscape Painting in Rome, 1595–1675. Exh. cat., Richard L. Feigen & Co. New York, 1985, pp. 22–24, ill.
Mario Alberto Pavone. "Paola Santucci: Poussin, tradizione ermetica e classicismo gesuita, 1985." Prospettiva no. 46 (July 1986), pp. 90–91, ill., sees in the figure of Orion an iconographic affiliation with Saint Christopher.
Francis Broun. "Sir Joshua Reynolds' Collection of Paintings." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1987, vol. 2, pp. 209–10, pl. 54, quotes Reynolds's description of this picture [see Ref. Reynolds, in or after 1758].
Elizabeth Cropper inPietro Testa, 1612–1650: Prints and Drawings. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1988, pp. 156, 169, notes that "Testa's exploration of the meteorological phenomena of the cycle of water in the natural world antedates Poussin's own examination of this theme in 'Landscape with Orion' . . . by some fourteen years".
Iain Pears. The Discovery of Painting: The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England, 1680–1768. New Haven, 1988, p. 86, ill.
Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée inLa pittura in Italia: il Seicento. Ed. Mina Gregori and Erich Schleier. Milan, 1989, vol. 2, p. 545.
Sheila McTighe. "Nicholas Poussin's Representations of Storms and 'Libertinage' in the Mid-seventeenth Century." Word & Image 5 (October–December 1989), pp. 345, 347–50, 361, sees this painting as an example of Poussin's linking of the human passions closely with storms, "specifically through their mutually blinding effect"; connects these ideas to the 'libertin' movement in France.
Richard Verdi. Cézanne and Poussin: The Classical Vision of Landscape. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1990, p. 14.
Alain Mérot. Nicolas Poussin. New York, 1990, pp. 11, 84, 130, 157, 196, 203, 222, 224, 226–27, 229, 231, 237, 291, no. 216, ill. (black and white and color), describes this painting as "a kind of hieroglyph, a vivid and striking image which hints at the 'deep, dark unity' of the world through a tight network of parallels and analogies".
Margaretha Rossholm Lagerlöf. Ideal Landscape: Anniblae Carracci, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. New Haven, 1990, pp. 60, 69, 71–72, 107, 126, 129, 160, 217–24, pl. 104.
Sheila McTighe inClaude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France. Ed. Alan Wintermute. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1990, p. 51.
Nadejda Petroussevitch inNicolas Poussin: Musée de l'Ermitage, Musée des Beaux-Arts Pouchkine. Paris, 1990, p. 162–63, ill.
Richard Verdi. "Margareta R. Lagerlöf, Ideal Landscape. Annibale Carracci, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, 1990." Burlington Magazine 133 (July 1991), p. 459, calls it "one of Poussin's most personal and poetical conceptions," which cannot be interpreted adequately within Lagerlöf's categories.
James Thompson. "Nicolas Poussin." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 50 (Winter 1992/93), pp. 2, 46, 48–54, ill. in color (overall and details).
David Carrier. Poussin's Paintings: A Study in Art-Historical Methodology. University Park, Pa., 1993, pp. 38, 64–65, 106–15, 120–21, 123, 125–31, 136, 138, 140–41, 144–45, 163–64, 193, 235, 252–53, 264, ill.
Richard Verdi. "The Reputation of Poussin's Landscape Paintings in France from Félibien to Cézanne." Cézanne & Poussin: A Symposium. Ed. Richard Kendall. Sheffield, 1993, p. 13 n. 2.
Michel Hoog. "The Eloquent Mountain in Poussin and Cézanne." Cézanne & Poussin: A Symposium. Ed. Richard Kendall. Sheffield, 1993, p. 112.
Alain Mérot. La peinture française au XVIIe siècle. Paris, 1994, pp. 151–52, 224–25.
Pierre Rosenberg inNicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1994, pp. 71–72, 486, 505–6, no. 234, ill. (color).
Jacques Thuillier. Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1994, pp. 38–39, 130, 221, no. 227, ill. (details in color; overall in black and white).
Pierre Rosenberg and Véronique Damian. Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1994, pp. 120–21, ill. in color (overall and details).
Suzanne-Claire Guillais. Poussin. Paris, 1994, pp. 56–57, ill. (color).
Milovan Staníc. Poussin, beauté de l'énigme. Paris, 1994, p. 65.
Pierre Rosenberg and Renaud Temperini. Poussin: "Je n'ai rien négligé". [Paris], 1994, pp. 48–49, 120, 122–23, 154, 156, ill. (color).
Richard Verdi. Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1995, pp. 47, 293, 295–96, 308–10, 312, no. 84, ill. in color (overall, and detail on front cover).
Andrée Hayum. "Poussin Peintre." Art in America 83 (May 1995), p. 131, claims that Poussin's late paintings, including the present work, "continue to testify to the tensions and conflicts produced by human desire".
Humphrey Wine. "Instruction and Delight: The Poussin Exhibitions at the Grand Palais, Paris, and the Royal Academy." Apollo 141 (April 1995), p. 50.
André Chastel. L'art français: Ancien régime, 1620–1775. Paris, 1995, pp. 148–49, ill.
Antoine Schnapper and Marcel-Jean Massat. "Un amateur de Poussin: Michel Passart (1611/1612–1692)." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, année 1994, (1995), pp. 99, 104, 107 [Passart inventory preserved in Archives Nationales, Minutier Central, étude CXV, 244, February 14–26, 1684], publishes the Passart inventory of February 14–26, 1684, following the death of Mme Passart in November 1683; remarks that the inventory includes two landscapes by Poussin, nos. 43 and 46, each valued at 1500 livres, tentatively identifying them with the present work and the "Landscape with a Woman Washing her Feet" in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; note that Mme Passart bequeathed to her son, Antoine-Michel Passart, a half share of the paintings that belonged to herself and her husband; suggest that Antoine-Michel needed to sell some of these paintings before his death in October 1684, several months after his marriage, as the "Orion" was in the Beauchamp collection by 1687 [see Ref. Brice 1687] and Michel Passart lived until 1692.
Michael Kitson. "The Poussin Exhibitions in France." Burlington Magazine 137 (January 1995), p. 30 [reprinted in "Studies on Claude and Poussin," London, 2000, p. 325].
Charles Dempsey. "Mort en Arcadie: Les derniers tableaux de Poussin." Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665): Actes du colloque organisé au musée du Louvre par le Service Culturel du 19 au 21 octobre 1994. Ed. Alain Mérot. Paris, 1996, vol. 1, p. 527.
Oskar Bätschmann. "'Apollon et Daphné' (1664) de Nicolas Poussin. Le testament du peintre-poète." Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665): Actes du colloque organisé au musée du Louvre par le Service Culturel du 19 au 21 octobre 1994. Ed. Alain Mérot. Paris, 1996, vol. 1, p. 549.
Hugh Brigstocke inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 25, New York, 1996, p. 394.
Sheila McTighe. Nicolas Poussin's Landscape Allegories. Cambridge, 1996, pp. 3, 7–10, 13, 34–38, 50–52, 79, ill. p. 4 and colorpl. 3, claims that "The story's hidden meaning is made visible in the trailing gray cloud that hangs over Orion's eyes. The storm cloud literally blinds the giant just as his passions were the moral cause for his loss of vision."; sees Poussin's storm landscapes, including this painting, as a working out of 'libertin' views of the natural cycle and human history in response to the civil disturbances or "Frondes" in France [1648–53] to which his patrons were witness.
Claire Pace in "Nicolas Poussin: 'peintre-poète'?" Commemorating Poussin: Reception and Interpretation of the Artist. Ed. Katie Scott and Genevieve Warwick. Cambridge, 1999, p. 78, discusses the appeal of Poussin's late landscapes to Hazlitt [see Ref. 1844] and his contemporaries.
Richard Verdi in "Poussin's Giants: From Romanticism to Surrealism." Commemorating Poussin: Reception and Interpretation of the Artist. Ed. Katie Scott and Genevieve Warwick. Cambridge, 1999, pp. 190–92, 194–95, 198–99, 204–7, fig. 44, remarks that although Gombrich's [Ref. 1944] analysis of this composition as an allegory of the circulation of water in nature, "is entirely consistent with the pantheistic symbolism of so many of Poussin's late works, it would have been regarded as irrelevant by all earlier critics of the 'Orion' [such as Hazlitt 1844], who preferred to see the picture as one of the most mysterious and poetical of all the master's inventions"; notes that this picture and Poussin's "Landscape with Polyphemus" in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, were particularly admired by the surrealists.
Michael Kitson in "Anthony Blunt's 'Nicolas Poussin' in Context." Commemorating Pousin: Reception and Interpretation of the Artist. Ed. Katie Scott and Genevieve Warwick. Cambridge, 1999, pp. 216, 218–19.
Todd Olson. "Painting for the French: Poussin, the Fronde and the Politics of Difficulty." Commemorating Poussin: Reception and Interpretation of the Artist. Ed. Katie Scott and Genevieve Warwick. Cambridge, 1999, pp. 172–73, 189 nn. 68–69, identifies this painting as one of two large landscapes listed in the Passart inventory of February 26, 1684 [see Ref. Schnapper and Massat 1994].
Peter N. Miller. Peiresc's Europe: Learning and Virtue in the Seventeenth Century. New Haven, 2000, pp. 129, 213 n. 187, describes this picture as capturing "in the single image of a giant blinded by a storm cloud seeking enlightenment, both sides of the debate about human nature that raged in Paris in the years immediately after Peiresc's death [in 1637]"; extensively quotes the Humanist intellectuals who participated in this debate, both neo-Stoics and Augustinians, emphasizing that in their writings blindness and storm clouds figure prominently as allegories for human nature and adversity; notes that Poussin had close ties with Peiresc's Roman friend, Cassiano dal Pozzo, and that the artist also knew Peiresc directly and exchanged letters with him; quotes Spencer's description of "huge Orion, that doth tempests still portend" from "The Faerie Queen" [1590/96, book 4, canto 11, which he incorrectly cites as book 6, canto 1].
Matthias Bruhn. Nicolas Poussin: Bilder und Briefe. Berlin, 2000, pp. 90–91, colorpl. 9.
Todd P. Olson. Poussin and France: Painting, Humanism, and the Politics of Style. New Haven, 2002, pp. 134–35, ill.
H.-W. van Helsdingen. "Notes on Poussin's Late Mythological Landscapes." Simiolus no. 3/4 (2002), pp. 154–62, 164, 171, 183, ill., comments on the historiography of the mythological landscapes.
Ann Sutherland Harris. "The Subject of Poussin's 'Landscape with a Woman Bathing' in Ottawa." Burlington Magazine 145 (April 2003), pp. 292, 294 n. 15, pp. 295–96, ill., suggests that this painting and the Ottawa "Landscape with a Woman Bathing," the subject of which she identifies as Vertumnus and Pomona, both from the collection of Michel Passart, are independent compositions on a related theme: the Orion "a metaphor for nature's cycle of growth and decay" and the Vertumnus and Pomona, a subject long "associated with nature's bounty and the changing seasons"—or fertility.
Christopher Allen. French Painting in the Golden Age. London, 2003, p. 72, fig. 52.
Peter Joch. Methode und Inhalt: Momente von künstlerischer Selbstreferenz im Werk von Nicolas Poussin. PhD diss., Technische Hochschule, Aachen. Hamburg, 2003, pp. 240–53, no. 7, pl. 126.
Annegret Kayling. Poussins Kunstauffassung im Kontext der Philosophie: Eine Interpretation des Louvreselbstbildnisses unter Berücksichtigung seiner Briefe und seines Oeuvre. PhD diss., Universität Marburg. Marburg, 2003, pp. 190–93, 213 n. 373, p. 260 n. 168, pl. 49.
Anne-Marie Lecoq. La Leçon de peinture du duc de Bourgogne: Fénelon, Poussin et l'enfance perdue. Paris, 2003, pp. 70, 134.
Clelia Nau. Le Temps du sublime: Longin et le paysage poussinien. Rennes, 2005, pp. 69, 183, 223, 225–26, 228–34, 239, 245, 271, ill. p. 324 (overall and detail).
Seymour Slive. Jacob van Ruisdael: Master of Landscape. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. London, 2005, p. 25.
Pierre Rosenberg. Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. Milan, 2006, pp. 112–13, 234, ill. (color).
Bernhard Stumpfhaus. "Das Tableau als Hieroglyphe?: Zur Funktion der Methapher im 'Orion'." Modus–Affekt–Allegorie bei Nicolas Poussin: Emotionen in der Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, 2007, pp. 175–91, pl. 1.
Christopher Wright. Poussin: Paintings, a Catalogue Raisonné. rev. and updated ed. London, 2007, pp. 209, 222, 230, no. 165, ill. (color).
Caterina Volpi inSalvator Rosa: tra mito e magia. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 2008, p. 160, under no. 37, relates it to Salvator Rosa's "Mercury and Argus" (private collection, Rome).
Clovis Whitfield. "The 'camerino' of Cardinal Del Monte." Paragone 59 (January 2008), pp. 20–21, calls it an illustration of the cycle of the elements, with Neptune, Jupiter, and Apollo as the fathers of Orion, whose birth is turned into an allegory of the creation of clouds and rain.
Pierre Rosenberg. "Letters to the Editor: A Portrait by Champaigne, a Landscape by Poussin." Burlington Magazine 150 (November 2008), p. 767, identifies our Blind Orion as the Poussin "païsage" listed among purchases of 1739 in the account books of Charles Godefroy [see Ref. Godefroy and Godefroid 1748].
Pierre Rosenberg inPoussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, pp. xiii, 166, 257,269, 284–87, 290, 292, no. 63, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Spanish ed., "Poussin y la naturaleza," Bilbao, 2007], suggests that John Keats became familar with this picture through Hazlitt's essay [Ref. 1821], "evidently alluding to it [the picture] in 'Endymion' (2): 'Or blind Orion hungry for the morn'" (erroneously cited here as "hungry for the moon").
Keith Christiansen. "The Critical Fortunes of Poussin's Landscapes." Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, pp. 16–17, 22–23, 26, 31, 35 n. 77 [Spanish ed., "Poussin y la naturaleza," Bilbao, 2007].
René Démoris. "From 'The Storm' to 'The Flood'." Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 96 [Spanish ed., "Poussin y la naturaleza," Bilbao, 2007].
Willibald Sauerländer. "'Nature through the Glass of Time': A Reflection on the Meaning of Poussin's Landscapes." Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, pp. 103–4, ill. p. 102 (color detail) [Spanish ed., "Poussin y la naturaleza," Bilbao, 2007].
Richard Verdi. "Poussin and Nature: Bilbao and New York." Burlington Magazine 150 (April 2008), p. 285.
Alfred Mac Adam. "Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions." Art News 107 (May 2008), p. 144, ill.
Olivier Lefeuvre inPoussin: Restauração, Hymeneus travestido assistindo a uma dança em honra a Príapo / Restauration, Hyménée travesti assistant à une danse en l'honneur de Priape. Ed. Pierre Curie. São Paulo, , p. 35, fig. 12 (color).
Jean-Pierre Cuzin. Figures de la réalité: Caravagesques français, Georges de La Tour, les frères Le Nain . . . [Paris], 2010, p. 164, reprints Cuzin 1982.
Jean-Louis Vieillard-Baron. "Et in Arcadia Ego": Poussin ou l'immortalité du Beau. Paris, 2010, p. 28.
Silvia Ginzburg inNature et idéal: le paysage à Rome, 1600–1650. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Galeries nationales. Paris, 2011, p. 56.
Stéphane Loire inNature et idéal: le paysage à Rome, 1600–1650. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Galeries nationales. Paris, 2011, p. 94.
Ralph Häfner. Mysterien im Hain von Ariccia: Nicolas Poussins "Landschaft mit Numa Pompilius und der Nymphe Egeria" im intellektuellen Kontext um 1630. Munich, 2011, p. 46, fig. 17.
Caterina Volpi. Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): "pittore famoso". Rome, 2014, p. 569, under no. 284.
Nicolas Milovanovic inPoussin et Dieu. Ed. Nicolas Milovanovic and Mickaël Szanto. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2015, pp. 64, 432–35, no. 94, ill. (color).
Clélia Nau inPoussin et Dieu. Ed. Nicolas Milovanovic and Mickaël Szanto. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2015, pp. 142–43, 146, fig. 103 (color detail).
Kamilia Abidri inPoussin et Dieu. Ed. Nicolas Milovanovic and Mickaël Szanto. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2015, p. 462.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 288, no. 236, ill. pp. 230–31, 288 (color).
Artist: Nicolas Poussin (French, Les Andelys 1594–1665 Rome)Date: ca. 1635–36Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over faint black chalk underdrawingAccession: 1998.225On view in:Not on view