NICOLAS POUSSIN | NARCISSUS GAZING AT HIS REFLECTION AND CUPID SHOOTING AN ARROW, IN A LANDSCAPE
Property from a Private New York Collection
Les Andelys, Normandy 1594 - 1665 Rome
NARCISSUS GAZING AT HIS REFLECTION AND CUPID SHOOTING AN ARROW, IN A LANDSCAPE
oil on canvas
20 ⅞ by 16 ½ in.; 53 by 41.9 cm.
The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, firstname.lastname@example.org, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.
This work has been lined with a non-wax adhesive. The painting is clean, retouched and varnished. It can be seen that weakness has developed to the paint layer, particularly in the background. Concise retouches are clearly visible under ultraviolet light. They can be found in the torso of the putti on the left, above the male figure's raised arm, in the lower right corner, and to the right of Narcissus's left calf. In the figure of Narcissus, the illuminated areas of the figure all show tiny dots of retouching, which probably address some thinness that has developed. His golden toga and the shadowed areas of his body show no retouches. Further retouching could better clarify the putti, and there is slight blooming to the varnish along the bottom edge that could be addressed.
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Possibly Balthazar de Monconys (1611-1665), Lyon, acquired for 64 pistoles, before 1664;
Possibly André le Notre, by 1685;
Possibly Charles-Alexandre de Calonne;
Possibly his sale, London, Skinner and Dyke, 27 March 1795, lot 22 ("Narcissus--a finished study for a larger picture") for 21 pounds, and resold London, 27 April 1795, lot 90;
Possibly anonymous sale, London, 16 December 1825, lot 216;
Possibly anonymous sale, London, 27 January 1827, lot 101;
Possibly Van Campan collection;
Possibly his sale, London, 17 February 1836, lot 73 ("Cupid Shooting his Arrow at Narcissus, introduced in a finely coloured classical Landscape") for 6 pounds to Phillips;
C. Gurney, London, before 1874;
By whose estate sold, London, Christie's, 13 February 1874, lot 51, for 3 guineas to Hansell;
Private collection, Sweden;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 3 December 1997, lot 53;
With Hall and Knight, New York, 1998;
From whom acquired by a private collector, 1998.
Possibly B. de Monconys, Journal des voyages de M. Monconys..., Lyon 1665-1666, vol. II, p. 458;
Possibly J. von Sandart, L'Academia todesca della architetura, scultura & pittura; oder, Teutsche Academie der edlen Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey Künste, Nuremberg 1675-79, vol. I, p. 368;
Possibly A. Félibien, Entretiens sur les vies et sur les ouvrages des plus excellens peintres anciens et modernes, Paris 1696, 2nd edition, D. Mariette, ed., vol. II p. 433;
Possibly J. Thuillier, Nicolas Poussin, Paris 1994, pp. 174, 185;
D. Mahon, "Il noviziato di Poussin: Lavori dei primi anni a Roma," in Quadri e sculture, no. 33, 1998, pp. 28-29, 35, cat. no. 19, reproduced;
D. Mahon, in Nicolas Poussin: I Primi Anni Romani, exhibition catalogue, Milan 1998, pp. 22, 33, cat. no. 24, reproduced fig. 53;
D. Mahon, in Nicolas Poussin: Works from his First Years in Rome, (English edition), Jerusalem 1999, pp. 30, 112-113, cat. no. 24, reproduced;
E. Fumagalli, in Intorno a Poussin/Autour de Poussin: Ideale classico e epopea barocca tra Parigi e Roma, exhibition catalogue, Rome 2000, pp. 85, 89-90, cat. no. 40;
T.J. Standring, "Sulle trace di Poussin," in Quadri e sculture, no. 36, 2000, pp. 8, 12, reproduced fig. 22;
M. Bull, "Poussin's 'Loves of the Goddesses'," in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, series 6, 137, no. 1585, 2001, p. 67;
P. Malgouyres, "Dessins français aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles," in Actes (Louvre), 2003, p. 133, 147, cat. no. 6;
P. Malgouyres, Charles Mellin, un Lorrain entre Rome et Naples, exhibition catalogue, Paris 2007, pp. 281-82, cat. no. 34, reproduced;
P. Rosenberg and K. Christiansen, Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions, New Haven and London 2007, pp. 162-163, cat. no. 16, reproduced.
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Nicolas Poussin: I Primi Anni Romani, 26 November 1998 - 1 March 1999, no 24;
Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Poussin and Nature, Arcadian Visions, 8 October 2007 - 13 January 2008; 12 February - 11 May 2008, no. 16.
According to Ovid’s Metamorphosis (3: 339-510), Narcissus was punished for spurning the nymph Echo and made to fall in love with his own reflection. In Poussin’s intimate painting, Narcissus holds a staff and begins to gaze into a reflective pool, while Cupid prepares to shoot the arrow that will cause Narcissus to pine away for himself.
This painting was likely purchased by the Lyonnais collector Balthasar de Monconys (1611-1665) during a trip to Rome in 1664. In his travel journal, De Monconys mentions buying a painting by Poussin (as well as one by “Gaspre” and one by Titian) on 31 May 1664. Eight days later, he visited Poussin to verify the authorship of “le tableau de Narcisse que j’avais du luy.”1 André Felibien also mentioned a painting of Narcissus in the collection of André le Nôtre in 1685, and though he described this painting as depicting Narcissus with Echo, Sir Denis Mahon noted that Le Notre’s picture did not in fact include the figure of Echo.2 Mahon therefore proposed that the present painting is the same as that owned by Le Nôtre , who may have acquired it from the sale of the De Monconys estate. Poussin painted the subject of Narcissus at least one other time, as evidenced by the Louvre’s Narcissus and Echo, which is likely the picture recorded in the 1669 inventory of the deceased Angelo Giori.3 Joachim von Sandrart also listed a Narcissus by Poussin, but it is unclear if he referred to the present painting or that in the Louvre.4
Several late 18th- and 19th-century English auctions included a "Narcissus" by Poussin (see Provenance), however the lack of dimensions makes it difficult to be certain if the present painting was actually sold in those auctions. Prior to the painting's reappearance at auction in 1997, it was unknown to scholars. It is therefore not mentioned in most 20th-century literature on Poussin, but has been included in more recent exhibition catalogues.
Mahon suggested a date of 1627 for this picture, which would make it contemporary with the Louvre Narcissus and place it in a period when Poussin favored mythological scenes set in idyllic landscapes. Other works by Poussin dated to this period include the Cephalus and Aurora in the National Gallery, London, in which the figure of Cephalus strikes a similar pose to this Narcissus, as well as the Bacchus in the Nationalmuseum of Stockholm.5 In the late 1620s, Poussin was also strongly influenced by the poetic mood of Titian’s d’Este Bacchanals, which Poussin had copied in 1624-25. The warm Venetian colors, downturned head of Narcissus, and playful pose of Cupid are all inspired by Titian’s mythological works and motifs that Poussin repeated in his own mythological works of the late 1620s and early 1630s.
This canvas was restored in 1998 during which time it was discovered that the original composition was remarkably well preserved.
1. See De Monconys in Literature.
2. See Felibien in Literature.
3. See P. Rosenberg, Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665, exhibition catalogue, Paris 1994, p. 138, no. 38.
4. See Sandrart in Literature.
5. The former, generally dated to before 1630, and the latter, dated by P. Rosenberg to 1626-27.