An Excerpt From:
Classical Mythology in Mediaeval Art
Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl
The everlasting nostalgia for this imaginary kingdom is the main foundation of Classicism. Enthusiasm for beauty and strength, sensual love and amoeba-liked olce far niente, and the craving for perfect harmony in the purely natural sense, concentrated more and more upon the classical sphere, so that the bucolic life became located in Arcadia. The innocent shepherds and shepherdesses who embodied civilized people’s innate desire for nature and peace were no longer named Robin and Jeannette as in the mediaeval French pastoral poetry, but Meliseo and Phyllis, Aminta and Sylvia. Thus the classical past, while it was more and more thought of and investigated as a concrete historical phenomenon, simultaneously developed into an enchanting Utopia that was surrounded with a halo of sweet and melancholy resignation, as in some of the paintings by Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorraine. The idea of antiquity developed into a dream of bliss and happiness; the classical past became a visionary harbour of refuge from every distress. A paradise lamented without having been possessed and longed for without being attainable, it promised an ideal fulfilment to all unappeased desires. From this we can understand why, from the crisis of the Counter Reformation in the sixteenth century, when the classicism of the Carracci led the way out of Mannerism into the baroque style, down to the crisis of our own days, which, among other phenomena, has given rise to the classicism of Picasso, almost every artistic and cultural crisis has been overcome by that recourse to antiquity which we know as Classicism.
Nicolas Poussin (15th June, 1594 – 19th November, 1665)
Claude Lorrain (circa 1600 – 1682)
Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Arts (URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1522803)