Paysage avec un homme tué par un serpent (1648)

Poussin, Nicolas (1594-1665)

Paysage avec un homme tué par un serpent (Landscape with a Man killed by a Snake)
probably 1648
Oil on canvas, 118.2 x 197.8 cm
National GalleryLondon

A man has been crushed by a snake and lies dead beside a pond: his body is limp and his skin a greenish-grey. We see a man and woman whose gestures and movement show their fear and surprise. The way the landscape is constructed reveals the drama in stages: the running man sees the dead man and the snake, the woman sees only the fleeing man and a fishermen in the distance see only her. Trees are used to frame the action and the zigzag placement of the people in the landscape and the alternating areas of light and shade lead our eye deeper into the distance. This scene is probably inspired by the notorious snake-infested area of Fondi, south-east of Rome, which Poussin and the painting’s owner, Jean Pointel, may have visited. The subject may be based on an actual event that Poussin heard about or witnessed. (NG)

Compare:

Turner, Joseph (1775-1851)
Copy of Poussin’s Landscape
1799
Tate BritainLondon