Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

B.A. in Liberal Arts

Chief Sponsor

Jerrilynn Dodds

Faculty Sponsor 1

Joseph Forte

Faculty Sponsor 2

Gillian Adler


Nicolas Poussin’s final painting, his unfinished 1664 iteration of Apollo and Daphne, has attracted a variety of interpretations over the years. Many of these hinge upon the uncertain identity of the dead youth pictured in the background. This paper investigates the contexts surrounding the painting’s construction in full, in order to understand which visual details are (and are not) important to its understanding. I investigate Poussin’s close relationship with Cardinal Camillo Massimo, their connection to Neostoicism, and the intellectual climate of the period. Then, I discuss the four preparatory sketches made before the painting’s execution, and his previous painted version of the Apollo and Daphne story from 1625. Following that, I consider Poussin’s relationship to mythology and the multiple representational possibilities it presents the artist. Finally, I explore the choreography of bodies in his work, and their association to both dance and Antique friezes. This paper concludes that the painting can only be read through the convergences of a plethora of discourses, rather than through a single lens; it reflects conversations about life, death, and cosmic cycles, and these themes supersede issues such as the identity of the youth.