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Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii, c. 1635-40

Nicolas Poussin

French, 1594-1665
Oil on canvas
39-5/8 x 54 in. (100.6 x 137.2 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1970.14.P
© 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

The incident depicted here is from Livy's account of the life of Republican leader and general Furius Camillus. While the general was besieging the town of Falerii, a local schoolmaster lured his pupils to the Roman camp, hoping to offer them as hostages. Finding the schoolmaster guilty of treason, Camillus offered him up to his students for punishment. The schoolmaster's twisted and distorted figure becomes a symbol of immorality and evil. The ethical Camillus, by contrast, is erect and well proportioned. Whatever the political overtones, Poussin's composition encourages us to contemplate the difference between shapeless ugliness and harmonious form.

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