Nicolas Poussin’s masterpiece “Cephalus and Aurora” depicts the mythological story of the goddess Aurora falling in love with Cephalus. The painting, created using oil on canvas around 1630, is currently displayed at the National Gallery in London. It measures 96.9 x 131.3 cm and features several figures.
In the painting, Cephalus is portrayed trying to move away from Aurora’s embrace, while she clings to him. A winged infant holds a portrait of Cephalus’s wife as an allegory for faithfulness in marital relations. An elderly bearded figure, possibly Tithonus or river god Oceanus, is depicted at the bottom center of the scene.
Poussin masterfully portrays rejection through a dynamic use of light and shadow to create emotional depth and capture tension between characters. Leon Kossoff was so moved by Poussin’s work that he felt compelled to create etchings in response to it.
In conclusion, “Cephalus and Aurora” is a significant piece by Nicolas Poussin that effectively portrays complex emotions using vivid color contrasts, detailed characterization, and carefully composed movement within the frame.