The Realm of Flora
Poussin, Nicolas (1594-1665) | Painter
At the centre is the goddess Flora, surrounded in her garden by numerous figures who, according to Ovid, were transformed into flowers after their death. On the far left, Ajax falls on his sword; next to him grows a carnation. Narcissus kneels in front of a jar, admiring his own reflection in the water, while narcissi, the flowers named after him, grow next to it. On the far right are Adonis and Hyacinth, with flowers sprouting from their wounds. Seated in front of them are the lovers Smilax and Crocus.
In Poussin’s Realm of Flora, who is who?
Let’s start at the far left with the figure of Ajax, a hero of the Trojan War. After being defeated, he falls on his sword. The carnation sprouting from the earth next to the sword foreshadows Ajax’s future life as a flower.
Directly next to Ajax, Narcissus is desperately in love with his own reflection. But every time he tries to kiss his image on the surface of the water, it vanishes! He will be transformed into the narcissus flowers already blossoming next to the glass jar.
Behind Narcissus, the nymph Clytia turns her face longingly up the heavens – to the sun god Apollo who, just as every day, gallops across the heavens in his chariot. But Clytia’s love is unrequited, and she is transformed into the sunflower.
On the far right, the immortal nymph Smilax pines for the attractive youth Crocus. As a nature spirit Smilax is immortal – but unfortunately, Crocus is mortal, and the gods are less than happy about their love affair. They turn Smilax into flowering bindweed and Crocus into … – well, no doubt you’ve guessed that one!
Behind Smilax and Crocus, there are two young men. The one on the right with the blue cloak is Adonis. He is examining his wounded thigh, a lethal wound received when hunting a wild boar – a wound where an anemone – the Adonis flower – is already spouting.
The figure next to him is Hyacinthus, one of Apollo’s ex-lovers. When they were playing with a discus, Apollo accidentally hit Hyacinthus on the head, wounding him fatally – and the blood dripping from the wound is transformed into the blue flowers of the hyacinth.
- Material & Technique
- Oil on canvas
- Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
- Inventory number
- Gal.-Nr. 719