‘Diverse Passions’: Mode, Interval and Affect in Poussin’s Paintings

Barker, Naomi Joy (2000). ‘Diverse Passions’: Mode, Interval and Affect in Poussin’s Paintings. Music in Art, 25(1-2) pp. 5–24.

URL: http://rcmi.gc.cuny.edu/parent-page/music-in-art-i...


In a letter to Paul Fréart de Chantelou dated 24 November 1647 Poussin outlined several aesthetic notions with musical significance, notably his adoption of the theory of musical modes and their application to painting. The significance of Poussin’s statements lies not only in the use of modes in visual terms that are directly parallel to their use in music, but also in the wider implications regarding the dissemination of musical theory outside specifically musical circles. Poussin’s references to concepts of affect and meaning, and his allusions to classical sources concerning the relationship of modal and poetic affects and textual rhythms to subject matter are of particular importance. Analyses of Poussin’s A Dance to the Music of Time (c.1638-40) and other paintings, statements made by the artist, and evidence drawn from texts on music theory, are used as evidence to support a new view of Poussin’s concept of mode that is viable in both musical and visual terms, and supported by contemporary theory.

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