The musée Fabre is one of the few museums out of Paris to keep within its collections works by Nicolas Poussin, among which the painting Venus and Adonis he made in Italie in 1624.This painting is a unique and precious testimony to Poussin’s trip to Rome, where he saw the famous Bacchanales by Titian then on display at the Vigna Aldobrandini. An inscription on the back of the painting shows that it comes from the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657), famous Roman art patron, secretary to Pope Urban VIII, and an unfailing supporter of Poussin early in his career.
The painting could have remained essentially one of the masterpieces of the Musée Fabre, if not for a decision in the 1970s to restore its canvas. At the time, Poussin experts began suggesting the possibility that there were stylistic similarities between the Montpellier painting and another one belonging to a private American collection. Indeed, the coincidences between the two paintings are undeniable: virtually identical heights, similar theme and execution, and the same provenance, the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo.
That was when the relining operation undertaken in Montpellier in 1978 revealed on the original canvas a Latin inscription which had been cut off. All that needed to be done was to check the back of the painting in the private collection to prove whether or not it could be the left-hand part of the painting held by the Musée Fabre!
It is now widely believed that the two paintings are two parts of a single work that was cut in half between 1740 and 1771, at which time each painting began to be considered a work in and of itself and acquired a separate history.
From February 12 until May 11 2008, the Metropolitan Museum in New York shows an exhibition named Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. It pays tribute to Poussin as a landscape painter, where Nature seen through the prism of time is endowed with a poetic quality admired by artists as different as Constable, Turner or Cézanne. The event of this exhibitions will undoubtedly be the gathering of the two paintings into one and only frame, releasing the masterpiece in its unicity, a happy ending to a remarkable story, resulting in the marvellous renaissance of a masterpiece separated for more than two centuries.
Press review of this event: