Landscape during a Thunderstorm with Pyramus and Thisbe
Oil on canvas
Inv. No. 1849
193 × 274 cm
Poussin was the chief exponent of a classicist strain of Baroque art which runs counter to our understanding of that epoch due to the restrained quality of its pathos, a characteristic learned from antique art. He spent most of his life in Rome and it was there that he painted all of his works – including this Landscape during a Thunderstorm, executed in 1651 for the Roman scholar Cassiano dal Pozzo. The literary source for this scene is the well-known story of the tragic couple as told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. In the foreground, Thisbe hurls herself onto the corpse of her beloved Pyramus, who has taken his own life in the belief that she has been torn to shreds by a lion. The figural narrative is further enhanced by the dramatic atmosphere of the precisely observed thunderstormridden landscape, struck in this very instant by a bold of lightning which echoes the diagonal line of Thisbe’s body and her gesture of horror. With this work, Poussin achieved an ingenious balance between a mythological story, an ideal landscape and the violence of nature.