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Nicolas Poussin, Eucharist

Key facts
Full title Eucharist
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made about 1637-40
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 95.5 × 121 cm
Acquisition credit Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government (under a hybrid arrangement) and allocated to the National Gallery, bought with the support of a generous legacy from Mrs Martha Doris and Mr Richard Hillman Bailey, 2023
Inventory number NG6700
Location Room 31
Collection Main Collection
Nicolas Poussin

In the late 1630s, Poussin painted one of the summits of his art: the first series of Seven Sacraments. Commissioned by his friend and patron Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1657), Poussin depicted the seven rites of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination and Extreme Unction. The series was celebrated for its beauty, innovation, and the careful depiction of these practices in their historic context.

Poussin represents the sacrament of Eucharist with a depiction of the candlelit Last Supper. Christ holds the bread and cup of wine in one hand and raises the other in blessing. He is seated at a Roman triclinium (padded couch), with six disciples on either side. Judas is probably second from the left, the only disciple who does not turn towards Christ. In the background, a shadowy figure retreats through an open door, creating a sense of movement in the otherwise still scene.

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