- Museum number
The Raising of Lazarus; tomb at centre with rising from it, lid of tomb in foreground, crowd of people either side, steps and figures in a doorway behind
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over black chalk
Verso: A woman holding up a satyr's mask to the face of a man with an erect penis with two figures behind (black chalk), and further studies of the Raising of Lazarus (pen)
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, black chalk
- Production date
- 1650-1660 (circa)
Height: 178 millimetres
Width: 260 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- According to Prat and Rosenberg this is a rare case in Poussin's work, and more generally for most artists with the notable exception of Michelangelo, where the black chalk figure studies on the verso appear to be much earlier in date than the pen studies on both sides of the paper of the 'Raising of Lazarus'. They date the black chalk figures to the 1630s and associate them with Bacchanals of that period, such as the lost 'Bacchanal in front of a Temple' or 'The Triumph of Pan' painted in 1636 for Cardinal Richelieu now in the National Gallery (NG 6477; A. Blunt, 'The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin, a critical catalogue', London, 1966, no. 136). The motif of a woman putting a mask to a man with a erection is also found in a wash drawing in the Louvre (Prat and Rosenberg no. 98) which they date c. 1637-8. An amended form of this was used by Poussin in his design for the frontispiece of the works of Horace where a Muse holds up a satyr's mask to the face of the poet: Mellan's print after the lost drawing of 1642 is illustrated as fig. A 85a in Rosenberg and Prat, II, p. 770.
The 'Raising of Lazarus' cannot be associated with any painting but Rosenberg and Prat date it on stylistic grounds to the 1650s. The broad block-like treatment of the figures on the recto harks back in some respects to a much earlier and more direct phase of Poussin's graphic style, comparable, for example, to the Ambrosiana, Milan, study (Prat and Rosenberg no. 39) of the 'Martyrdom of St Erasmus' altarpiece in St Peter's Rome, of 1628-9. This comparison led Hugh Brigstocke to date the drawing in the Oxford show of 1990/1 to the late 1620s, but such an early dating ignores apects of the handling that are more typical of Poussin's late manner: most notably the waving, tremulous outlines, seen most clearly in the description of the women and children to the right of Christ and the figure of the man to the left of the tomb lid. Allied to this is the staccato rhythm of the penlines which, together with the wave-like outlines, impart such a sense of nervous kinetic energy. The combination of blockier figures with the flickering qualities of Poussin's late style is unusual, but it is one matched in his study from the early 1650s of a kneeling woman in Chantilly (Rosenberg and Prat no. 358) for a lost painting of 'Pyrrhus at the court of Glaucias'. The sketchier studies on the verso for the Lazarus composition, with the artist turning the sheet 90 degrees to make drapery studies for the figures of Christ and the man leaning towards him in the left foreground, are more easily matched with Poussin's rapid, and sometimes somewhat scratchy compositional drawings, like the Chantilly 'Holy Family with Children' (Rosenberg and Prat no. 328) related to the Getty painting of c. 1650.
If the 'Raising of Lazarus' studies are from the early 1650s, it seems improbable that the black chalk drawing on the verso was really executed thirty years earlier as some of the same graphic mannerisms, like the wavering outline, are found. This follows Martin Clayton's opinion in his review of Prat and Rosenberg monograph that the Louvre Bacchanal brush-and-wash drawing (Prat and Rosenberg no. 98) was rather of the late 1640s akin to other studies in the same technique. As Clayton noted this redating made it possible that the verso study of Bacchantes on the present sheet could be from same period thereby eliminating the large gap between the execution of the studies on the same sheet. Cordélia Hattori took up this idea and suggested that the Louvre drawing might be an idea for a painting that Poussin's planned to send to Paris for the poet Scarron in 1649.
Lit.: W. Friedlaender and A. Blunt (eds.), 'The drawings of Nicolas Poussin, catalogue raisonné: drawings after the Antique, miscellaneous drawings addenda', London, 1974, V, nos. 397-8, p. 77, pl. 294; H. Brigstocke, in exhib. cat., Oxford, Ashmolean, 'A loan exhibition of drawings by Nicolas Poussin from British collections', 1990, no. 17a-b; P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, 'Nicolas Poussin, 1594 -1665: catalogue raisonné des dessins', Milan, 1994, no. 99 (with previous literature); M. Clayton, review of Prat and Rosenberg, "The Burlington Magazine", 138, July 1996, p. 468; C. Hattori, 'Problèmes autour de trois dessins de Poussin (1594 - 1665)', "Revue du Louvre", XLVIII, 2, April 1998, p. 47, fig. 4
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1990/1 Dec-Feb, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Drawings by Poussin, no. 17a
1994/5 Sept-Jan, Paris, Grand Palais, 'Poussin' (no cat.)
2002 April-June, Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Mus of Art, 'French Drawings from the British Museum'
2002 July-Sep, Tokyo, NM of Western Art, 'French Drawings from the British Museum'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number