This artwork is a copy by Roussel (c. 18th century) of a painting created by the famous artist, Nicolas Poussin (c. 1594–1665). Its themes and inspirations are recorded in the artwork’s title, L’Hiver ou Le Déluge (Winter or The Deluge). On the one hand, it symbolizes the season of Winter for Poussin’s Four Seasons series of paintings, but, on the other hand, the artwork also is an envisioning of the biblical Deluge story, connected to the famous tale about Noah and the Ark. Relevant passages for this scene can be found in the Book of Genesis, and will be quoted below:
“For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark” (Genesis 7: 17-23, NIV translation).
Such is the scene that was re-created in the painting above. Its color scheme and style is as apocalyptic as the doomsday story that inspired it, heavily featuring shades of black, gray, brown and green. Additionally, although many other Deluge paintings were done with sunset colors or other aesthetically beautiful features, the Poussin painting (and Roussel’s copy) instead keeps the artwork’s skyline dark and stormy. Although the Ark can be seen in the background, the artwork focuses on the struggle and suffering of the people who had not been given a divine warning about the sudden deadly flood.
Written by C. Keith Hansley