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Nicolas Poussin, 'Marriage', about 1637-40

Key facts
Full title Marriage
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 On loan from The Trustees of the Duke of Rutland’s 2000 Settlement, Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Lincolnshire
Inventory number L956
Location Room 31
Image copyright On loan from The Trustees of the Duke of Rutland’s 2000 Settlement, Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Lincolnshire, © The Duke of Rutland's Trustees, Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Lincs.
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 Marriage with the wedding of the Virgin Mary to Joseph. They join hands, kneeling beneath a priest and the dove of the Holy Spirit. Several bystanders look in amazement at the flowers blooming on Joseph’s rod, which identified him as the man Mary should marry. This scene, which takes place amid ornately decorated Corinthian columns, is one of the most brightly coloured of the Sacraments, with rich blue and orange tones carefully distributed across the composition.

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