The Adoration of the Golden Calf Nicolas Poussin Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Adoration of the Golden Calf was done between 1633 and 1634. It is an oil on canvas paint and the style used is that of classicism. This paint depicts the very moment when Moses came down Mount Sinai and saw the Israelites dancing and celebrating around their new god, a Golden calf.

The Adoration of the Golden calf is a dynamic, energetic paint. Poussin painted the Calf really impressive and out of pure gold. The statue is big and it is shimmering in the yellow warm light, in full magnificence. The paint shows very little of Moses, only on the left in the background, but his brother Aaron is seen clearly at the center of the paint dressed in white robes. Above, dark clouds seem to approach and cover the scene, impervious to the dancing and singing Israelites as no figure looks to the threatening horizon. Thunderstorms and disaster loom. In the plain, two trees whose foliage reaches into the dark clouds grow. The viewer's eyes are then taken upwards to the dark clouds.

The scene can be said to be in the morning hours, the sun is seen from behind the mountains, the light is early red but strong enough to cast a reflection on the calf and illuminating Aaron and falling onto the right side of the paint. The Adoration of the Golden Calf picture is diagonal and the two main scenes on the right and the left sides are situated perfectly within the base triangles formed by the diagonals and the base of the paint. The background is the far landscape and the sky. The vertical middle ground of the paint is the rightmost bright part of the altar on which the Golden Calf stands.

The left side of the paint is the dancing figures and to the right are other figures gesticulating towards the Calf. Much of the scene, especially the Calf are situated above the middle-upper line so that the viewer's eye looks at the scene from below the Calf. The light in the paint comes from the left upper side of the paint. From the center, the lights grow naturally darker in lower tones and the white color almost entirely vanishes. Nicolas's interest in art was influenced by a minor itinerant painter working in a church. Other influences are Raphael, Domenichino, Guido Reni and Titian. Poussin influenced artists such as Eugene Delacroix and Jean Hugo. Other works related to Nicolas include landscape with a man killed by snake and landscape with a man scooping water from a stream.