Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus

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

Date: ca. 1627

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 38 3/8 x 28 5/8 in. (97.5 x 72.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, 1871

Accession Number: 71.56


The picture was painted not long after Poussin arrived in Rome. It represents the story of Midas, an allegory of vanity, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Bacchus offered Midas a gift, and the king asked that everything he touched be turned to gold. Soon realizing that he could neither eat nor drink, he asked to be relieved of the gift and Bacchus sent him to wash it away in the Pactolus river. Partly submerged in water, Midas is accompanied by the personification of the river god.