Collection: St. John the Evangelist on Patmos

ARTIST: Museum Religious Art Classics


Artist: Nicolas Poussin – c. 1640

Although French by birth and training, Nicolas Poussin spent most of his career in Rome, immersed in the study of ancient art, where he painted classically inspired works for an educated elite. His art has long been considered the embodiment of the ideals of seventeenth-century classicism. In this painting, Saint John, one of the four Evangelists who wrote the Gospels of the New Testament, reclines beside his attribute, the eagle. He is here depicted as a powerful old man, presumably after retiring to the Greek island of Patmos to write his gospel and the book of Revelation at the end of his life. To suggest the vanished glory of the ancient world, Poussin carefully constructed an idealized setting for the saint, complete with an obelisk, a temple, and column fragments. Man-made and natural forms were adjusted according to principles of geometry and logic to convey the measured order of the scene. Even the profile view of Saint John is in harmony with the classical landscape.

His feast day is December 27.