Skip to main content

Nicolas Poussin, The Triumph of Silenus

Key facts
Full title The Triumph of Silenus
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made about 1636
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 142.9 × 120.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG42
Location Room 31
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Triumph of Silenus
Nicolas Poussin

This playful scene celebrates Silenus, companion to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and drunkenness. Silenus, a naked old man with a bald head, sits slumped on a throne to the left, supported by two men. Too drunk to stand, he balances one leg precariously on a tiger. He is surrounded by revellers who remove their clothing and enjoy the festivities. The flute player stares towards us, inviting us to join the party. To the right, a shepherd seduces a female satyr, who symbolises lust. Behind them, two centaurs with human bodies and horses' legs attack an ass. The composition is complex and sophisticated, with trees and rocky cliffs framing the scene.

This was one of three bacchanalian scenes Poussin painted for the powerful French minister, Cardinal de Richelieu (1585–1642). The painting’s uneven finish, with some figures quite coarsely executed but objects in the foreground rendered meticulously, had led some scholars to consider this a copy after a lost work by Poussin. Recent conservation treatment and technical analysis point instead to this being Poussin’s original.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo