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Pierre-Charles Poussin, Pardon Day in Brittany

Key facts
Full title Pardon Day in Brittany
Artist Pierre-Charles Poussin
Artist dates 1819 - 1904
Date made 1851
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 146 × 327 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by R.E. Lofft, 1870
Inventory number NG810
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Pardon Day in Brittany
Pierre-Charles Poussin

Pierre-Charles Poussin’s painting of 1851 shows a crowd of pilgrims who have gathered for the Pardon day at Guingamp in Brittany. Pardons were a Breton tradition in which the faithful would gain absolution for their sins in return for joining a procession to worship at selected shrines.

Brittany, with its ancient traditions and costumes, became a popular subject with artists in the second half of the nineteenth century, and Poussin revels in the quaintness of the woodland scene. He creates a panorama filled with small details – from a scuffle and a pedlar hawking ribbons to a woman peeling turnips and mothers nursing babies. The decorous nature of the scene perhaps suggests that it is taking place before the festivities are fully underway. Poussin’s interest is not in the religious aspect of it all but in the colourful and picturesque nature of the gathering.

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