Vermeer's contemporaries: Paris

After Rome and Madrid, here is Versailles under Louis XIV:

In 1665, Louis XIV was still young, and the enlargement of the small Versailles palace was started, to make it into the immense "cosmos" which it would become over the years.

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Here is the Grand Carousel, the last entertainment given in Paris before the Court definitively left the city for Versailles. The king had already begun to design the policy of absolute centralism which would characterize his reign as the Sun King.

A king as monolithic as Louis XIV needed an equally monolithic painter as Nicolas Poussin. Louis XIV was a monarch who wanted to rule over everything, Nicolas Poussin was a painter who ruled over all French painting. Louis XIV wanted order to reign, Poussin made order and classicism reign with the absolute composition technique which characterized him.

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Poussin was trained in Rome's classical school. "My natural tendency forces me to look for and like well-ordered things, fleeing confusion which I find to be contrary and the enemy, as is the light to dark shadows", 1642. He favored an architectural, constructed and rigorous art. All lines were studied so that the forms, proportions and the perfect balance of curved and straight lines were truly in harmony.

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This wash drawing symbolizes his mastery of light very well.

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The whole composition, the slightest gesture of the most minor character, down to the index finger, are harnessed in the totality of a scientific composition, marked by very obvious diagonals. It would not be doing Poussin justice to say that he was nothing more than a master of the science of composition. He was much more than that. Despite a certain neo-classical coldness, which is a little reminiscent of Roman friezes and Grecian bas-reliefs, in certain works, such as SAINT JOHN'S MEDITATION AT PATMOS, he was able to express extraordinary emotion.

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Each block, each column section has fallen exactly where it had to for perfection to reign in the apparent chaos of the collapsed architecture. Painted with dizzying technique and happiness, this is undoubtedly one of Poussin's most beautiful works.

All the great French painting of the 17th century fell into step with this celebration of order which was Nicolas Poussin's esthetic.