Analysis Of Poussin's 'Hannibal Crossing The Alps'

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Poussin described his initial work on his new painting Hannibal Crossing the Alps as ‘thinking’. He told Cassiano del Pozzo he continued to give his commission ‘daily thought’: For the drawings for the honourable gentleman/your honourable self I am thinking [about them] every day, and I should quickly finish them/some.’ The words ‘I am thinking’ (j’y pense) is Poussin’s way of highlighting what he saw as his own exceptional intellectual efforts. And he assures Cassiano that tangible proof of his mental labours I will come in the form of sketches for him to look at : I have drawn an elephant … painted with Hannibal mounted on top [wearing] antique armour. Here the French painter assiduously promotes his learned approach to developing …show more content…
But being a classically educated ‘literary man’, he translated Poussin’s expression ‘I am thinking’ into the more conventional oratorical concept of invention’ (invenzione in Italian). Now in the Italian Renaissance ‘invention’ approximately meant to what we now call ‘subject matter’. But more than that, it was also the term that Italian renaissance poets and scholars and then painters all gave to their initial planning process any new painting or sculpture or book. It followed that both artists and their patrons talked about invenzione when negotiating and discussing prospective new projects and commissions. In short ‘invention’ came to denote the very beginnings of the creative process, that very thing Poussin describes in the above letter to Cassiano del Pozzo. Invention became a central concept in Italian Renaissance art theories from the Quattrocento onwards. Alberti’s On Painting, Dolce’s Aretino and the lesser known De Veterum by Franciscus Junius were most significant in defining the meaning of ‘invention’ as it applied to the art of painting. These texts shaped the idea of invenzione as it was used and understood in the bottegas by generations of painters in Italy, up to and of course including …show more content…
Here I will not focus on Poussin’s literary sources as such (a much discussed topic already). Rather I want to analyse the process – as Bellori interprets it - whereby the painter transformed his often myriad of written sources into one visual tableau. In this case invenzione refers to the artistic decision making process, the one that began with Poussin’s ‘thinking’. This is where he decides what figures to include, where to locate these in his painted space, before deciding what variety of figural poses and expression will best narrate his

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