sculpture decorates the roofline. In its blocklike form, the palace resembles an Italian Renaissance palace, although
the sections of the façade that project forward slightly (these are called pavilions) are derived from medieval French
traditions. On the interior, the most spectacular room is the Hall of Mirrors. On one side of this enormous hall,
arched mirrors reflect the shape of the windows to the outside; the lavish decoration is given a sense of order by
the use of marble pilasters with gilded Corinthian capitals that are spaced evenly along the entire hall. Above,
enormous paintings made under the direction of Charles Le Brun use allegorical form to tell the story of Louis XIV’s
rise to power.
Palace and Gardens of Versailles. Versailles, Hall of Mirrors.
POUSSIN
AND THE
FRENCH ACADEMY
The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture was founded in 1648 as a way to free painters from guild restrictions
and from the servile position of the court painter. In time, however, the academy became just as controlling as the
guild and the court, although in somewhat different ways. Even though most artists still received their practical
training in the shop of a master, the academy held exclusive rights to teach life drawing from the nude model, and
it maintained control over admission to the salons, the official exhibits of the best art produced by its members.
The academy also provided a forum for discussions about art. Among the most important topics considered was the
relative merit of the various types of painting: history painting, genre painting, portraiture, landscape, and still life.
History painting—that is, painting that illustrates a historical, religious, or mythological story, usually with a strong
moral message—was considered the highest type of painting. It encompasses all the other types of painting, and it
demands that the artist not only know about the subject itself, but also that he be a master of figure painting,
because history painting always focuses on the actions of human beings.
Another point of debate in the art world of this period centered on the style of painting. One faction (the rubénistes)
supported the painterly, colorful style of Rubens, and the other faction (the poussinistes) argued in favor of a more
tightly controlled, linear way of painting, which emphasized clear outlines. As the name implies, the linear style is
that of Nicolas Poussin, who was one of the founders of the French academy. Although Poussin always maintained
his ties to France, he spent most of his career in Italy, where he learned to appreciate the work of Raphael, Titian,
and the other Renaissance masters.
Poussin’s Et in Arcadia Ego, painted c. 1655, is an excellent example of his style. The piece fits the definition of
history painting: it depicts a mythological scene of shepherds in Arcadia, the ancient Greek land of innocence not
very different from the biblical Garden of Paradise. But there is one difference between Arcadia and Paradise—
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