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Mens Agitat Molem: New Insights into Nicolas Poussin's Painting Technique by X-ray Diffraction and Fluorescence Analyses

Our scientific analysis of two paintings by Poussin—Venus presenting Aeneas with his Arms (painted in 1639), and Eliezer and Rebecca at the well (painted towards the end of his life, in the early 1660s)—is presented here in the context of the philosophical and poetic culture that inspired them. In addition to determining the pigments Poussin employed by x-ray fluorescence and diffraction, we have attempted to interpret the ways in which he selected and applied them (mixing colours optically in the eye as well as substantially, either on the palette or the canvas) in order to express his philosophy in paint, as a poet uses words. Mens agitat molem—wrote Virgil—the spirit animates matter.

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14 Aug 2014
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