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Greek Mythology and Nicolas Poussin Essay

On April 26 2013 I visited the Detroit Art Institute. In there I have seen plenty of interesting art sculptures, artifacts, and paintings. The one that really enjoyed the most is “Selene and Endymion” by Nicolas Poussin, a French artist. He made this painting back in 1630. Currently, the painting is in the European paintings exhibit section in the DIA. The painting itself uses oil on canvas for its medium, and the dimensions are: 48 x 66 1/2 inches. The painting is about Selene and Endymion. Selene is a Greek goddess who happens to fall in love with farmer named Endymion.

Selene knows Endymion will age and pass away eventually due to him being a mortal, so she asked Zeus to make him immortal to prevent her lover from aging and dying. Zeus accepted the request on the condition that he is put in eternal sleep instead. Endymion loved Selene so much that he was willing to do it in order to be with her forever. Thus the couples wish was granted and Endymion was with Selene, in a slumber forever. The art shows forms by using contours and dynamic elements. The contour of the characters and the background shows surfaces giving it some mass.

The picture also shows Helios and Eos moving towards the left side and Endymion kneeling towards Selene, these dynamics gives the picture mass and dimensions. The painting uses a great deal of values as well. On the right side of the painting, it uses a darker value compared to the left side of the painting. This is to show and represent day, dawn, and night on the art picture. Another use of values is used to show the distances in the background. As we can see the deities Eos and Helios are in a darker shade compared to Endymion and Selene, this is to show the distances between them.

Lastly, the painting use values to show shadows and mass, giving the picture forms and dimensions. Time itself is used as another visual element. The art uses time as a way to capture a moment in time. As mentioned before, we see Helios and Eos moving towards the left side of the picture and Endymion kneeling to Selene. These movements show a moment captured, using time as a concept. The artist shows a good symmetrical balance. It has a good distribution of visual weight. The left side of picture, it shows Endymion, Selene, Eos and Eros and on the right side it shows Helios and three unknown characters.

The emphasis of the art is on Endymion and Selene as they are the subject of the art. Both of the subjects have a larger size compared to the other characters; they are also heavily colored in value and in texture compared to the others. Nicolas also put in more details on the subject’s faces and body than the rest of the art subjects. The characters all have parts that are pleasing proportions to each other. They have the same proportions as regular real life humans. The heads, the arms, and legs are in all relation to the rest of their bodies. The picture has a lot of content and meaning.

Helios, the sun god is painted has a gold like aura, which seems to represents the sun. Selene, the moon goddess is on the left side which represents the night. Eos, the goddess of dawn is right between them. The movement of these deities also represent the day going forward. As Helios is moving forward, a curtain is following him, showing that night is coming forward. Eros, the god of love is hovering around Selene while she is talking to Endymion. This is to show their affection for one another. Lastly, the unknown sleeping people are representation of what is about to come, Endymion is about to have an eternal slumber to be with Selene.

I have always liked Greek mythology ever since I was young boy. After learning how to see art and see its visual elements and organizing principles, it made me appreciate “Selene and Endymion” by Nicolas Poussin even more. My interest in art and in Greek mythology is combined together in this subject. Citation: “Selene and Endymion” by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) Date: c. 1630 Medium: Oil on canvas Dimensions: 48 x 66 1/2 in. (121. 9 x 168. 9 cm) with frame: 59 x 77 1/4 x 3 1/2 in. 149. 9 x 196. 2 x 8. 9 cm Department: European Painting.

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