The Shepherds of Arcadia (1638) by Nicolas Poussin

The Shepherds of Arcadia - Nicolas Poussin - 1637 - 1638

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Shepherds of Arcadia
ArtistNicolas Poussin
Date1637 - 1638
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions121 x 185 cm
Art MovementClassicism
Current LocationLouvre, Paris, France

About The Shepherds of Arcadia

The artwork titled “The Shepherds of Arcadia” is a celebrated work by the French painter Nicolas Poussin, dated between 1637 and 1638. Poussin’s work exemplifies the Classicism art movement, with this particular piece created using oil on canvas. The artwork measures 121 by 185 centimeters and falls under the genre of pastorale, commonly depicting rustic, idyllic scenes of rural life. This iconic painting is housed within the esteemed collection of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

“The Shepherds of Arcadia” portrays a serene landscape inhabited by four figures, believed to be shepherds, who have stumbled upon a tomb. The central focus of the composition is the tomb itself, which features an inscription that has intrigued and baffled scholars for centuries. The text, “ET IN ARCADIA EGO,” can be translated to “Even in Arcadia, I am,” a memento mori suggesting that death is also present in even the most idyllic of settings. The shepherds are depicted in various states of interaction with each other and the tomb, examining and pointing at the inscription with a mixture of curiosity and contemplation.

The atmosphere of the painting is calm and composed, with the figures rendered in classical poses that convey a sense of timeless repose. The landscape is bucolic, with trees, mountains, and the sky painted in soft, harmonious colors that underscore the pastoral theme. Through the statue-like quality of the figures and the serene setting, Poussin masterfully balances the tranquility of the scene with the underlying motif of mortality, inviting contemplation on the nature of existence and the inevitable presence of death.

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