Rose Croix Veritas

Les Bergere d'Arcadie John the Baptist SamHain Line





Nothing of what concerns the SHEPHERDS of Poussin's ARCADIA can leave us indifferent: as far away from the "loneliness" as of confusion, héritièrs of the humanism of Alberti and precedes of David or of Puvis de Chavannes, such a composition is solemn classicism. The concise inscription which justifies it inspired, these last years, of rather hot discussions summarized by Mr. Weisbach in the Gazette of the Art schools December 1937.

Several essential facts emerge from this study: I - the sentence AND IN ARCADIA EGO appears to us for the premiére time in a table of Guerchin preserved at Galleria Nazionale of Rome, it there is engraved on a block of masonry and comments on a cranium which two shepherds contemplate, pressed on their sticks; one then finds it, about 1620-1630, in a first version of the Poussin table collected by the Collection of the Duke of Devonshire with Chatsworth; it is read finally in the centre of the famous table of the Louvre; its origin is forgotten, "all gives to believe that it was there, at the time, a very known saying, whose we are unaware of the source", this source is not ancient, it should be sought, undoubtedly, in the néo-Latin humanistic literature and could be contemporary painters. II - the direction of the sentence AND IN ARCADIA EGO is dubious. "interpretation that one (in) generally gave, during time" is as follows: ` Me also, I lived in Arcadie, and I knew the bonheur' there; ` it is at Goethe, Schiller, Nietszche, to quote only some large names', but it is already, with few things close that the biographer and friend of Poussin, Felibien, who writes:


"By this inscription one wanted to mark that that which is in this burial lived in Arcadie, and which death recontre among the greatest happiness". But, Mr. Erwin Panofsky, in Philosophy and History essays presented to Ernest Cassirer, Oxford, 1936, breaks with the tradition, "

the word AND can be reported only to IN ARCADIA and not not with EGO. If one wants to comment on the table of Guerchin correctly, it is necessary to compensate verb SUM and to give for subject to this I AM, the cranium which symbolizes abstracted Death ", one must thus read:

"Me, Death, I exist even in Arcadie".

This reading would be also valid for the first Poussin version, which exposes a cranium on its sarcophagus.

For the table of the Louvre, whose monument is of a whole nudity, the direction should be modified a little: "it would be the tomb itself which would speak": such a interpretation that Mr. Panofsky maintained, defended and specified in answer to Mr. Weisbach in the issue of May-June 1938 of the Gazette of the Art schools, would be confirmed by the paraphrase of Bellori:

Et in Arcadia ego, cioé che il sepolcro si trova ancora in Arcadia, e che la Morte ha luogo in mezzo le felicità".

Lastly, Mr. Weisbach proposes a third reading: the word AND would be referred to IN ARCADIA as Mr. Panofsky thinks it, but it died it well which would speak and would proclaim: "Even in Arcadie, I had to suffer death", i.e.:

"Even in Arcadie the country of happiness, me, it died, I was not saved by Death"

or more explicitly still:

"Me also, which enjoyed happiness in Arcadie, I had to undergo death, and I gis in this tomb".

It is perhaps not useless to pour a new part with this file of an inscription illustrates... The German engraver of the Renaissance Heinrich Aldegrever (born in Paderborn about 1502, resident with Soest until 1555), left a engraved portrait of the chief of the Anabaptists Jean Beuckelsz, said Jean de Leyde, carried out after the death of the character who was torture victim on January 27, 1536. However, this print, which poses many curious problems (cf Emile GAVELLE. - Cornelis Engebrechtsz. Lille, 1929, p.328), are cornea of a distich singularly close to the text whose Poussin made fortune; the chimerical king who had died in the sufferings after a transitory reign of which he had wanted to make a Golden age, addresses to the spectator in "beautiful towards melancholic persons":


 Confronted with that of Guerchin and Poussin, this inscription suggests the following remarks: I - Here a text engraved former to us texts painted; it notes like them it brittleness of happiness, and, like them, ends in EGO; it does not give their exact precedes but indisputably attaches them to a tradition which goes up at least in the medium of 16th century. II - In this text of 16th century, it is well a death which speaks and not an abstraction. EGO rejected at the end of the speech expresses the return of late on itself which confront in only one word of a poignant concision what it was, and what it is. Such a constation vigorously does not invite us it to push back the assumption of M, Panofsky which hears in Guerchin and Poussin the inhuman voice of one entitié:

Death or the Tomb? Lastly, the clearness of the opposition of the opposition established at Aldegrever between the past and the present, the life and the incurable nostalgia of death, wouldn't it advise us, in some measurement, to reject the reconciling but slightly hard solution of Mr. Weisbach who weakens contrast by diluting the thought?

Isn't the traditional reading, which in our tables, attaches AND and EGO, yet the best? The philologists, Mr. Weisbach notes it, there would not see absolute opposition, "if this bringing together corresponded to a correlation of facts", but in the current state of our knowledge it would be necessary to stick to one "not liquet". This darkness had not obstructed, until now, any the well-read men, large or small, who had adapted the formula to their humanistic nostalgias.... One should not, now, lira like them, while specifying a little:

"Me also, I lived in Arcadie happy - and I died."

Very finely, Mr. Panofsky gave like ancestors to our shepherds the Three Sharp ones in contemplation in front of the Three Dead ones. The engraving of Aldegrever would invite us to attach the inscription: AND IN ARCADIA EGO with the epitaphs boldly antithetic of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.


Bulletin of the Survey firm of the 17th century (Number 18; 1953)






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