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Poussin's compositions depict victims of tragic deaths or assaults, most of them women. Works showing the dying include the Death of Virginia, Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice, Landscape with Pyramus and Thisbe, and the Realm of Flora. Among women assaulted, Poussin's works include the Massacre of the Innocents, Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, Queen Zenobia found on the Banks of the River Arax, Apollo and Daphne (two versions), Pan and Syrinx, Rape of the Sabine Women (two versions), and the drawing the Rape of Europa.
Poussin's works include victims of tragic deaths or assaults, most of them women. The chief protagonist in his drawing of the Death of Virginia was slain by her own father to protect her virginity, while Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice shows Eurydice killed by a snake. Landscape with Pyramus and Thisbe represents thwarted young lovers committing double suicide based on their tragic misperceptions, and the Realm of Flora depicts the seven mortals from Ovid's Metamorphoses who died and became flowers. Among those assaulted, the Massacre of the Innocents includes a principal mother and four others who tried to prevent Herod's soldiers from slaughtering their children, and Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery shows the humiliation of a woman used by the scribes and Pharisees to try to trick Christ. In Queen Zenobia found on the Banks of the River Arax, Zenobia barely survives an attempted mercy killing by her husband to prevent the enemy from capturing her. Poussin's first version of Apollo and Daphne depicts the girl's unfortunate transformation into a laurel tree; his second version shows her before her confrontation with Apollo, fearful and huddling by her father for protection. Pan and Syrinx likewise portrays an attempted rape, while the artist's two versions of the Rape of the Sabine Women represent forced abduction. Similarly, Poussin's drawing of the Battle between the Israelites and the Midianites shows the Midianite women terrified of the destruction of their tribe and capture by the Israelites as they seek protection behind the lines of their soldiers; eventually the worst came to pass as they were seized. Another of Poussin's drawings, the Rape of Europa, depicts the girl just before she is carried off by Jove, who assaulted her in the guise of a white bull.
Chapter 1 considers Poussin's canvases representing Cephalus and Aurora and Diana and Endymion, focusing on the goddesses as sexual predators who snare innocent mortal males, dominating them in love. Their stories reflect a patriarchal inversion in which men project the belief that females control them in love, whereas in Poussin's time the reverse was normally the case, as exemplified in laws and customs severely restricting women's sexual activities outside of marriage.
Two important paintings by Poussin, Cephalus and Aurora (c. 1629-1630, National Gallery, London, Fig. 1.2) and Diana and Endymion (c. 1630, Detroit Institute of Arts, Fig. 1.4), focus on goddesses as sexual predators who snare innocent mortal males, dominating them in love. The female deities in these myths destroy their earthly lovers: Cephalus is driven to suicide, and Endymion is lost in sleep, forever relinquishing his sentience. The stories of these ancient goddesses continued to reflect male fears of control by powerful females in the seventeenth century, a time when women were still imagined to be consumed with carnal fulfillment because of the biology of their bodies. It was still presumed by many, even if the most advanced physicians no longer thought so, that women's cold, wet humors and their wombs drove them to hyper-sexuality, whereas men's hot, dry humors supposedly disposed them towards rationality and restraint. In addition, reflected in the goddesses’ tales is a patriarchal inversion in which men project the belief that females control them in love, whereas in fact in Poussin's time the reverse was normally the case, as exemplified in laws and customs severely restricting women's sexual activities outside of marriage. Poussin announced the theme of predation early in his career, around 1624-1625, with his Cephalus and Aurora now at Hovingham Hall (Fig. 1.1), and a few years later developed the idea further in the two great works from his early maturity in London and Detroit. In these pictures the artist shows the power the two goddesses hold over the men, and the differing reactions of the latter. In the London canvas Cephalus clearly rejects the advances of Aurora, and in the Detroit painting Endymion reveals, mixed together, the more complex emotions of awe, love, and fear.
Further categories of victimhood appear in Poussin's works, including the voiceless and the deceived, making examples of this broad theme of female victims (including those discussed in Chapter 5) the most common in his oeuvre. In the present chapter, all of the victims are female. The voiceless are found in Echo and Narcissus, Hercules and Deianeira, the Continence of Scipio, and the Testament of Eudamidas. Deceived women appear in the Birth of Bacchus, Achilles Among the Daughters of Lycomedes, and the Judgment of Solomon.
Keywords: Victims, Voicelessness, Deception, Jealousy, Power
Further categories of victimhood appear in Poussin's works, including the voiceless and the deceived, making examples of this broad theme of female victims (including those discussed in Chapter 5) the most common in his oeuvre. In the present chapter, all of the victims are female. The voiceless include Echo in Echo and Narcissus, whose human form fades into a rock while she longingly tries to converse with the one she loves. The young woman in the Continence of Scipio is likewise without a voice, since she is entirely passive, her fate having been determined by Scipio, her betrothed, and her father. The voiceless grandmother and daughter in the Testament of Eudamidas are innocents whose fate hangs upon the mercy of the male heirs named in the will of Eudamidas. Poussin's drawing of Hercules and Deianeira (c. 1637, Royal Library, Windsor Castle, Fig. 6.2), not included in detailed discussion in this chapter, also shows a voiceless woman, Deianeira, who has no say in who becomes her husband, as the outcome is determined by men, Hercules and Achelous, who fight each other to win her, and her father, King Oeneus, who agrees that the winner shall marry his daughter. Turning to women deceived, while she is not shown in the Birth of Bacchus, Semele, the mother of Bacchus, fell victim to Juno's deception when she was sent to Jove to be destroyed. Also deceived were the daughters in Achilles Among the Daughters of Lycomedes, who were led to believe that Achilles was a woman. The real mother in the Judgment of Solomon was deceived by the false one, who claimed the child of the former as her own.
The explosive aggressiveness or peevishness of women and goddesses in several works by Poussin result in tragic deaths. Works depicting killers in this chapter include Medea Killing her Children, Diana Killing Acteon, Landscape with Diana and Orion, and Diana Slaying Chione. Transgressors who suffer transformation or death include Myrrha in the Birth of Adonis; Aglauros in Mercury, Herse, & Aglauros, and Sapphira in the Death of Sapphira.
The explosive aggression and peevishness of women and goddesses in several works by Poussin result in tragic deaths. His two drawings of Medea Killing her Children graphically illustrate how a mother takes horrifying revenge on a husband who abandoned her. The goddess Diana was quick to kill those whom she regarded as offending her, often basing her actions on unjustifiable pretexts. Diana Killing Acteon depicts the death of the young hunter at the hands of the goddess for the slight of observing her while bathing. In Landscape with Diana and Orion, the goddess kills the hunter Orion, according to one version of the story, on a dare from her brother, Apollo, and to protect her virginity. Diana Slaying Chione shows the goddess killing a mortal woman by shooting her through the tongue for boasting that she was the more beautiful. Transgressors who suffer transformation or death in works by Poussin include Myrrha, who is changed into a tree by the gods for her crime of incest in the Birth of Adonis, and Sapphira, who in the Death of Sapphira is struck dead by God for hiding money intended for the Church. Another transgressor appears in Poussin's Mercury, Herse, & Aglauros (c. 1627, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, Fig. 4.9), a painting not included for detailed study in this chapter. This canvas shows the sad story of Aglauros, who, through jealousy, had tried to bar Mercury's way to her sister Herse, whom the god loved. For her transgressions of jealousy of her sister, greed, and desire for Mercury, Aglauros was turned to stone by the god. Poussin's picture seems to warn women not to open secrets through longing and particularly through the gaze, which is a male prerogative.
Poussin's paintings present a wide range of approaches to love. Deeply felt love is portrayed in his Venus and Adonis (two versions), Acis and Galatea, Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite, Arcadian Shepherds (first version), Spring (Earthly Paradise), and Summer. Mars and Venus depicts controlling love. Unfulfilled love is shown in his Tancred and Erminia (two versions) and Venus with the Dead Adonis, while Landscape with Juno and Argus represents jealous love.
Poussin presents a wide range of approaches to love in his paintings, from deeply felt to controlling, from unfulfilled to jealous. Genuine, reciprocal love is the theme of several works, including two versions of Venus and Adonis, Acis and Galatea, Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite, and even his first version of the Arcadian Shepherds, in which a partly clothed shepherdess suggests previous erotic activity. In addition, the first two canvases of his Four Seasons series include positive lovers: Spring (Earthly Paradise) portrays Adam and Eve before the fall, and Summer depicts Ruth and Boaz, who will become wife and husband. In Mars and Venus, Venus is shown as controlling in love, since she coerces Mars to dally in her bed of pleasure, thus thwarting his ambition to pursue his bellicose ways. Unrequited love is represented in Tancred and Erminia (two versions), where Erminia is unable to fulfill her love for Tancred. Finally, Poussin's Landscape with Juno and Argus displays jealousy in love. The jealous Juno places on the plumage of her peacock the hundred eyes of Argus, whom she had sent to guard Jove's latest paramour, Io; the all-seeing monster had been killed by Mercury at Jove's behest.
The Venus and Adonis in the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth (c. 1624-1625, Fig. 3.1) expresses the deep, mutual love of the couple as Venus lies peacefully in her lover's lap, gently holding him as she looks into his eyes. Symbolic hints of Adonis's future early death, such as the torch on the ground, the sleeping cupid, and the black clouds, are kept to a minimum.
Poussin's Women: Sex and Gender in the Artist's Works examines the paintings and drawings of the well-known seventeenth-century French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) from a gender studies perspective, focusing on a critical analysis of his representations of women. The book's thematic chapters investigate Poussin's women in their roles as predators, as lustful or the objects of lust, as lovers, killers, victims, heroines, or models of virtue. Poussin's paintings reflect issues of gender within his social situation as he consciously or unconsciously articulated its conflicts and assumptions. A gender studies approach brings to light new critical insights that illuminate how the artist represented women, both positively and negatively, within the framework in his seventeenth-century culture. This book covers the artist's works from Classical mythology, Roman history, Tasso, and the Bible. It serves as a good overview of Poussin as an artist, discussing the latest research and including new interpretations of his major works.
Heroic and noble women appear mainly in Poussin's historical and religious works. Women achieve heroic status in his Landscape with the Ashes of Phocion Collected by His Widow, and Coriolanus. What I call “great ladies” appear in Landscape with Numa Pompilius and the Nymph Egeria, and the Arcadian Shepherds (second version). Great ladies are represented in Old Testament scenes such as the Finding of Moses, Eliezer and Rebecca, and Esther Before Ahasuerus. But the Virgin Mary in his New Testament scenes most perfectly fulfills the designation “great lady,” in his Annunciation, Holy Family on the Steps, Assumption of the Virgin, the and The Seven Sacraments: Marriage (two versions).
Keywords: Heroines, Great Ladies, Courage, Wisdom, Majesty
Heroic and noble women appear mainly in Poussin's scenes from Greek and Roman history, allegory, and religion, but hardly ever in his mythologies. Their broad absence from his mythological works reminds us of the degree to which women are depicted as transgressors or victims is such pictures. Women achieve heroic status in two historical works included here. The widow of Phocion risks arrest and performs what may be considered a political act by secretly disinterring her husband's ashes to take them back to her home in Athens in Landscape with the Ashes of Phocion Collected by His Widow (1648, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Fig. 7.1). The painting honors the widow's unadorned private virtue and her devotion to the memory of her husband as she undertakes an act judged to be illegal by the corrupt regime. In Coriolanus (c. 1653, Musée Nicolas Poussin, Les Andelys, Fig. 7.2), the general's wife, mother, and matrons of Rome display their courage by urging him to call off his siege of Rome. Coriolanus's mother was especially eloquent in convincing him to end the invasion. She and the other women displayed their heroism in pleading in the face of male power as potential victims of the force of arms.
What I call ‘great ladies’ are noble and esteemed women who appear in a historical picture, an allegory, and in a number of religious paintings included here.
Poussin explores the full range of lust and uninhibited sexual desire in his mythological works, from jubilant exuberance and celebration of passion in his Triumph of Pan and Hymenaios Disguised as a Woman During an Offering to Priapus, to the impulsive erotic infatuation of Armida in his two versions of Rinaldo and Armida; and from shepherds and satyrs spying upon females in Venus Espied by Shepherds and Landscape with Polyphemus, to lust and love conquered in Amor Vincit Pan and Venus and Mercury. He examines every aspect of desire: love's triumph, its darker impulses, and finally its defeat.
Poussin explores the full range of lust and uninhibited sexual desire in his mythological works, from jubilant exuberance and celebration of passion in his Triumph of Pan and Hymenaios Disguised as a Woman During an Offering to Priapus, to the impulsive erotic infatuation of Armida in his two versions of Rinaldo and Armida; and from shepherds and satyrs spying upon females in Venus Espied by Shepherds and Landscape with Polyphemus, to lust and love conquered in Amor Vincit Pan and Venus and Mercury. He examines every aspect of desire: love's triumph, its darker impulses, and finally its defeat. It is sometimes thought that Poussin elected to paint scenes that aroused sexual desire in his male audience early in his career, before he became famous, in order to make money at a time when he was struggling to survive in the art world. In fact, he created scenes of erotic delectation throughout his career, not just at the beginning. Even among his late works, sexualized females are found, as in his Landscape with Polyphemus, which includes the highly erotically charged image of lecherous satyrs spying on naked nymphs, a repetition of the same motif found in one of his earliest extant paintings, the Dresden Venus Espied by Shepherds. Other late pictures with nude nymphs include his Birth of Bacchus (1657, Cambridge, MA), and his final work, the Apollo and Daphne (1664, Paris). While it is true that erotic nudes are more often encountered in his early works, he continued to produce such imagery throughout his career, right up to his last painting.
Females both impose and endure human suffering more than males in Poussin's works, indicating both vengeance and victimhood as womanly characteristics. Some of Poussin's women are evil or destructive; others are victimized, heroic, or virtuous. He shows women as lovers, as jealous and duplicitous, as killers, but also as the gateway to redemption. He was aware of the injustices often imposed by men upon women, and urges his viewers to meditate on the unfairness of their victimhood. His purpose, as he said himself, is to encourage his viewers to think deeply about the moral implications of the subjects that he paints, no matter how harsh or noble they might be.
A survey of Poussin's representations of women makes it clear that he does not, as is often inaccurately affirmed even today, depict ‘the best aspects of ancient, pagan civilization [in] a coherent whole in art’. The beauty of his paintings, his deployment of their colors, boldly or delicately orchestrated as required, his carefully coordinated figures, spun out in rigorous yet lovely compositional structures, beguile us into imagining that his subjects, like his pictorial constructions, are broadly uplifting. In the face of his pictures’ attractiveness, we have to remind ourselves that his subjects are so often destructive. In his presentation of scenes of rape, war, injustice, and revenge, Poussin aims chiefly to present dramatic narratives that engage the viewer in thoughtful reflection on human conflict. He wrote to Chantelou in 1648 that he would like to illustrate ‘the most distressing tricks of Fortune ever inflicted on man’. These paintings, Poussin said, ‘would remind people of the moral strength and wisdom they must develop in order to be able to remain steadfast and resolute in the face of the very worst which that blind madwoman can do to them’. He never made these pictures, but many of his finished works easily could be imagined as part of such a series, canvases in which protagonists are tested by the ill will of others (as is the good mother in the Judgment of Solomon—Fig. 6.8) or by the forces of nature (as are both lovers in Pyramus and Thisbe—Figs. 5.4, 5.5).
Depression is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. As depressive disorders carry a high risk of relapse, treatment strategies include the use of a 6-month continuation period after resolution of the acute episode. Tolerability is of major importance when determining compliance and outcome during long-term therapy. Due to the superior tolerability profile of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) over the older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), the former may be more suitable for extended therapy. Comparative studies have not shown differences between the SSRIs in terms of efficacy, but side-effect profiles may vary. A multicenter, double-blind, comparative study of sertraline and fluoxetine was carried out in outpatients fulfilling DSM-III-R criteria for major depressive disorder. Patients were randomised to receive sertraline (50—150 mg, n = 118) or fluoxetine (20—60 mg, n = 120) for 24 weeks. Assessments for depression (HAM-D, HAD, CGI-I, CGI-S), anxiety (Covi), sleep (Leeds Sleep Evaluation scale) and quality of life (SIP) were made at study entry and at weeks 2, 4, 8, 12, 18 and 24. All adverse events were recorded to allow evaluation of tolerability. In total, 88 patients in the sertraline group completed the study compared with 79 in the fluoxetine group. Side effects were responsible for the premature treatment withdrawal of seven (6%) sertraline patients and 12 (10%) fluoxetine patients. Two-hundred and thirty-four patients were included in an ITT analysis up to last visit (116 sertraline, 118 fluoxetine). At study endpoint, both treatments produced a significant improvement over baseline on all efficacy variables (P < 0.001). Although the magnitude of global changes in depression, anxiety, and quality of life was larger with sertraline than fluoxetine, none of the between-group differences reached statistical significance. However, significant differences in favour of sertraline were observed for individual HAM-D items including item 4 (insomnia onset) (P = 0.04), item 9 (agitation) (P = 0.02), and item 13 (general somatic symptoms) (P = 0.008). In addition, sertraline was associated with significantly superior performance on the Leeds Sleep Evaluation scale and on SIP items relating to sleep and rest, emotional behaviour and ambulation. Both sertraline and fluoxetine were well tolerated with no significant differences between treatments.
Sexual dysfunction occurs in 40%-60% of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), due to either the illness itself and/or the effects of antidepressant treatment. The phase-2 CLARITY trial recently demonstrated the efficacy of adjunctive pimavanserin (PIM) for MDD when added to ongoing selective serotonin or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSRI/SNRI) treatment. No new safety observations were reported in this study. This post-hoc analysis examines the potential impact of PIM treatment on sexual function.
Study methodology has been presented previously (APA 2019). Adult male and female patients with moderate-to-severe MDD were randomized to PIM 34 mg/day (n=51) or placebo (PBO, n=152) added to ongoing SSRI/SNRI treatment. Massachusetts General Hospital–Sexual Functioning Inventory (MGH-SFI) and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, 17-item version (HAMD-17) item 14 (sexual interest) scores were examined by analysis of covariance.
Adjunctive PIM resulted in significantly greater 5-week reduction (improvement) relative to SSRI/SNRI treatment plus placebo on mean MGH-SFI scores (difference –0.634, SE 0.167; P<0.001; effect size [ES], Cohen’s d 0.614). Similarly, PIM resulted in greater improvement compared with placebo on individual MGH-SFI items that applied to both males and females: Interest in Sex (P=0.006; ES=0.483), Ability to Get Sexually Aroused/Excited (P=0.001; ES=0.560), Ability to Achieve Orgasm (P<0.001; ES=0.609), Overall Sexual Satisfaction (P=0.003; ES=0.524). HAMD-17 item 14 scores were also significantly more reduced (improved) with PIM (P<0.001; ES=0.574).
These results underscore the potential of adjunctive PIM for improving sexual function in patients with MDD and inadequate response to SSRIs/SNRIs. Potential benefits should be confirmed in further studies.