Poussin, A Lost Painting and Further Mystery

During a recent vacation to Rome I managed to stumble across a number of potentially unique finds which led to new lines of enquiry. This one occurred in Castel Sant'Angelo less than a mile from the Vatican.

Castel Sant'Angelo is one of the tallest structures in Rome, commissioned originally by Hadrian as a mausoleum and built around 130 AD. Over time it became a residence and fortress for a succession of Popes. On a recent trip to the castle I was astounded to find an unguarded (no staff, no barriers, no obvious cameras) painting by Nicolas Poussin in one of the many small rooms. Poussin was the painter of the Shepherds of Arcadia which is associated with the Rennes le Château mystery in which the priest Berenger Sauniere discovered a secret and or treasure leading to him becoming an overnight millionaire and celebrity. Poussin was also an alleged grand master of the so called Priory of Sion. This painting was yet more bizarre than the Shepherds of Arcadia. It features what can be best described as a debauchery scene with the deity Pan (or a Pan-like deity) providing his support and general encouragement.

Poussin painting of debauchery

Here is the attribution:

Attribution to Poussin?

In addition to the many Pan-like figures distributed throughout the painting there is however one figure of interest who is wearing a cloak with a red jewel and holding a staff containing the hermetic double snake.

Double snake close up

This made me wonder about Poussin's other paintings. The list makes for interesting reading but the more notable ones in relation to the story I tell in my book are as follows.

There are numerous paintings in which 'Nymphs' are interacting with goats including riding a goat and a derivative of the goat-god, Pan.

Here is the goat riding.

Nympth riding the goat

And here it is again but in another form by Poussin.

Nympth on another type of goat
For those readers of my book you may be struck by the similarities to the freemasons' jokes about riding the goat including their comedic postcards, as well as the scene at Otranto cathedral, southern Italy, of King Arthur riding a goat. Here they are again for reference.

Masonic postcard about riding the goat

King Arthur in the tree of life mosaic, Otranto

The next painting is the Judgement of Solomon. King Solomon has a special significance with freemasons. Solomon's Temple was also known as the Holy Temple and First Temple in ancient Jerusalem. It was destroyed in the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II during the siege of Jerusalem of 587 BC. It was subsequently replaced and was the ultimate destination for the Knights Templar.

Poussin painting, the Judgement of Solomon

Destruction of the Temple is the next painting. This time another incarnation of King Solomon's Temple, now known as the Temple of Jerusalem, is destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD as part of the sacking of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Roman's were quelling an uprising. This caused the many treasures and secrets to be stolen and taken to Rome through the same Roman legion involved in Christ's crucifixion. Further context and speculation about what was really going on is provided in my book.

Poussin painting of the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem by the Romans

As I was in Castel Sant'Angelo discovering this little mentioned painting attributed to Poussin it was intriguing to find that he had in fact painted Castel Sant'Angelo, the papal stronghold, in his painting called 'Landscape with Orpheus'. This is featuring what I might describe as a nice picnic whilst the papal fortress of Castel of Sant'Angelo burns in the background. Was this an overt anti-Vatican signal from Poussin? Here it is below.

Poussin painting, a Landscape with Orpheus

I hope that you can spot a number of similarities between the story in my book and Poussin's paintings. Even if the Priory of Sion was a fictitious organisation (quite likely albeit I do not believe it to be quite so clear cut, as many sceptics claim) Poussin still had some interesting ideas, both overt and veiled.

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