The Inspiration of the Poet Nicolas Poussin Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

The Inspiration of the Poet is an oil painting on canvas created in the Classical style. This means it was partly inspired at least by the aesthetic of Ancient Greece and Rome. The painting aspires for purity and perfection with a strong emphasis on the beauty of the human form.

Nicolas Poussin, the artist of the painting, lived in the late 16th to the mid 17th centuries. Though The Inspiration of the Poet is indeed a Classical painting, Poussin himself was mostly involved in the French Baroque style. He painted mostly in Rome, however, which did likely inspire his Classical tendencies and later became an inspiration to Classical painters in the 20th centuries. Though the exact date of the painting is unknown, it is believed to be created between 1629 and 1630 during Poussin's first Roman period. The Inspiration of the Poet is currently held in the world's largest art museum, the Louvre in Paris, France where it was acquired in 1911.

Like many artists in this period, Poussin painted by commission for wealthy and respected members of society. In Poussin's case, the artwork came into the possession of the Cardinal Jules Mazarin, an Italian Cardinal who served under two French Louis'. He also acquired two Duke titles so would have been very prolific. It is not clear whether Mazarin commissioned this piece but it was certainly in his collection. The painting was gifted to the French king Louis the Great, better known as The Sun King or plainly as Louis XIV just short of 30 years after Poussin died. Along with this painting was The Seaport, a painting by André Le Note, an architect and gardener to The Sun King.

The painting displays the Olympic God Apollo, God of the Sun, knowledge, poetry and many other things along with juvenile Cupids, often representing love and courtship and one of the Muses, goddesses of literature, the arts and science. Some believe the Muse, which appears in other works by Poussin, may have been his wife Anna Dughet. They married in 1630 in Rome, possibly the year after the painting was created or the very year The Inspiration of the Poet was painted.

In the painting these figures are preparing to crown a poet, composing a piece whilst inspired. The subject matter is not known and there is simply speculation and interpretation. The title of the painting changes when it appears in Cardinal Jules Mazarin's collection as Apollo with a Muse and a Poet Crowned with Laurels. The painting uses many warm colors alluding to Poussin's inspiration of Titian, an Italian painter who often utilized these colors. Other artworks by Poussin related to this piece include The Inspiration of Anacreon and Parnassus.