Pour l’honneur de la France

In the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, just off the Corso in central Rome, is a simple, unobtrusive little monument to the French artist Poussin. He died in Rome on 19th November 1665 and the monument was placed in the church by Chateaubriand in 1832, at the height of the Neoclassical age, ‘pour la gloire des arts et l’honneur de la France’. The glory of God is not mentioned. Poussin is most famous as a painter of romanticised classical landscapes. The relief carving on the monument shows shepherds in an olive grove grouped around a tomb, trying to make sense of the words inscribed in its surface. It is a direct reference to a famous work by Poussin, now in the Louvre, in which exactly the same scene is shown. Written upon the tomb are the words: ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’. Death, in other words, comes to us all, even to the carefree creatures of idyllic Arcadia.

(An extract from Pilgrim’s Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph)