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Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with a Man washing his Feet at a Fountain

Key facts
Full title Landscape with a Man washing his Feet at a Fountain
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made about 1648
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 74 × 100.3 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Sir George Beaumont, 1826
Inventory number NG40
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Landscape with a Man washing his Feet at a Fountain
Nicolas Poussin

In this picturesque landscape the bright blue sky and leafy trees reflect the warm climate. The path and river lead our eye towards the town in the distance. In the foreground, a seated man washes his feet in a fountain. On the right, a woman beside a shepherd points towards a large column, which may be part of a temple. Large basins like the one on the left were placed near temples so that worshippers could wash their feet as a purifying ritual. The small statue attached to a tree beside the road is unusual; the sword and scabbard may belong to the man lying on the ground, who has retired from military life.

When the painting was acquired by the National Gallery the man washing was thought to be Phocion, a successful politician in ancient Greece, but this is now considered unlikely. The landscape may be inspired by a description of the Vale of Tempe in Greece by a classical author that Poussin certainly read.

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