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Landscape with a Woman Washing her FeetEnlarge image

Landscape with a Woman Washing her Feet, 1650

Nicolas Poussin
French, 1594 - 1665
oil on canvas
116.5 x 174.7 cm
Gift of H.S. Southam, Ottawa, 1944
National Gallery of Canada (no. 4587)

The prosaic title is taken from the painting's earliest commentator, the art theorist André Félibien, the artist's friend and champion. A man, hidden in the bushes, spies on the young woman and her guardian. Poussin's landscapes often take their subjects from ancient myths, but this story remains unidentified. Yet the work is painted with such seriousness that we are almost impelled to believe the event to be invested with meaning. The calm, verdant landscape seems to complement and comment on the figures, as if Nature and Man were part of one whole. Poussin looks back to the tradition of Venetian landscape painting, which had been recently re-evaluated in early 17th-century Rome. The artist's mature work, marked by reserve and discipline, is an important countercurrent in 17th-century art.

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