Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus

Nicolas Poussin French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 623

According to ancient myth, King Midas was granted his greedy wish that everything he touched would be turned to gold, but he quickly realized that he could neither eat nor drink. To reverse what had become a curse, the god Bacchus instructed Midas to wash in the Pactolus River. Poussin represents Midas here as the smaller, humbled figure behind a classical representation of a reclining river god and two putti whose jugs point to the river’s source and to Bacchus as the god of wine. Abounding with Poussin’s classical erudition, this painting was among the first he completed after arriving in Rome and was among the first works of art to enter The Met in 1871.

Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus, Nicolas Poussin (French, Les Andelys 1594–1665 Rome), Oil on canvas

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