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Nicolas Poussin, Cephalus and Aurora

Key facts
Full title Cephalus and Aurora
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made about 1630
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 96.9 × 131.3 cm
Acquisition credit G.J. Cholmondely Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG65
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Cephalus and Aurora
Nicolas Poussin

Aurora, goddess of dawn, is in love with the mortal Cephalus and tries to seduce him. Cephalus, dressed here in blue, turns away from Aurora, rejecting her advances. He gazes towards a portrait of his wife, Procris, held by a winged cupid. Later, when Cephalus and Procris are reunited, they each doubt the fidelity of the other. Their story ends tragically when Cephalus accidentally kills his wife with a magic spear.

To the left of Aurora and Cephalus is a reclining river god, probably Oceanus, and beside him is the winged horse Pegasus. The background figure wearing a wreath of corn and holding flowers could be Terra, a goddess associated with the awakening earth. The faint outline of the sun god Apollo in his chariot can be seen in the vivid orange sky. These figures relate to relate to Aurora as the goddess of dawn and times of the day.

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