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Nicolas Poussin, Nymph with Satyrs

Key facts
Full title Nymph with Satyrs
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made about 1627
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 66.4 × 50.3 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG91
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Nymph with Satyrs
Nicolas Poussin

A beautiful nymph lying in the foreground seems to be asleep, although she may be enjoying a moment of solitary ecstasy. Beside her a golden-haired child watches as a satyr – a man with a goat’s ears, horns and legs – gently removes her delicate white robe. Another satyr peeps out from behind a tree, smiling mischievously. In ancient Roman art, satyrs are represented as lustful, drunken woodland gods.

The woman’s pale skin, soft curves and rosy cheeks contrast with the satyrs' tanned skins and muscular bodies. In the past it was suggested that the painting showed Jupiter, king of the gods, and the nymph Antiope, or perhaps a satyr disturbing the sleeping Venus, goddess of love. However, the details of the painting do not exactly fit either interpretation.

Painted in around 1627, this is an example of Poussin’s early work. He was a young painter living in Rome without regular patronage, and this may have led him to paint erotic subjects that appealed to a wide audience.

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