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Nicolas Poussin, The Triumph of Pan

Key facts
Full title The Triumph of Pan
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made 1636
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 135.9 × 146 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with contributions from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund, 1982
Inventory number NG6477
Location Room 31
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Triumph of Pan
Nicolas Poussin

In this chaotic woodland party, men and women dance, drink, play music and behave badly. They gather around a statue of a red-faced satyr with horns, which may represent Pan, god of shepherds and herdsmen, or Priapus, god of gardens. Both deities are linked to the mischievous god of wine, Bacchus. Bacchanalian festivals were held in ancient Roman times to ensure a good harvest, and according to literary descriptions they involved lots of sex and alcohol. The goat, faun and the flower garlands we see here were part of the festivities.

These naughty partygoers look like actors on a stage: the musical instruments and masks in the foreground relate to these festivals' dramatic plays. The muscular figures and their flowing drapery convey Poussin’s interest in Classical sculpture. The warmth of this scene is conveyed by the dusky sky and colourful draperies, now faded although once vibrant.

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