Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Bowdoin College Museum of Art Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Advanced Search
Image of The Continence of Scipio 152

1813.10

Artist

John Smibert (Attributed to; after Nicolas Poussin)

Title

The Continence of Scipio

Creation Date

ca. 1719-1722

Century

18th century

Dimensions

45 3/4 in. x 62 5/8 in. (116.21 cm x 159.07 cm)

Object Type

painting

Creation Place

North America, American

Medium and Support

oil on canvas

Credit Line

Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III

Copyright

Public Domain

Accession Number

1813.10
Smibert’s painting is a copy of a 1640 painting by the revered French painter Nicolas Poussin. Its subject derives from Roman history. During the Second Punic War, the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus decided to return his war spoils, including the bride of his enemy Allucius, the young prince of the Celtiberians. Scipio’s moral fortitude presented an ideal subtext for Poussin’s classical interpretation. John Smibert, the copyist, was a portrait painter from Scotland who trained in London and later set out with Dean George Berkeley to found a college in Bermuda. This painting was intended to be part of the college’s teaching collection, but when that project fell through, Smibert exhibited it in his Boston studio and art supply store. In Boston it set an example for John Singleton Copley, who admired it. At Bowdoin College since James Bowdoin III’s bequest in 1813, the work has contributed to the education of countless generations of students. John Smibert’s Exposure to Poussin Smibert painted this picture in London between 1726 and 1728, soon after the original was acquired from a French collection by Sir Robert Walpole, one of the great art collectors of the eighteenth century. At the time it came into his possession, Walpole lived less than a mile from Smibert’s London studio. In 1726, Smibert recorded in his commissions notebook that he painted two miniatures for Walpole, along with a copy of a life-size portrait of him, yet for the latter he records no payment. It is possible that Smibert received permission to copy Poussin’s Continence of Scipio in exchange for painting a portrait for Walpole. Given Smibert’s Presbyterian background and emphasis on leading a moral life, he undoubtedly considered this picture particularly noteworthy. And as there were few original paintings by Poussin then in England, it made the work all the more desirable. Richard Saunders Director, Middlebury College Museum of Art, and Professor, History of Art and Architecture, Middlebury College

Recommend keywords

Help us make our collections more accessible by providing keywords to describe this artwork. The BCMA uses the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus to provide consistent keywords. Enter a keyword in the field below and you will be prompted with a list of possible matching AAT preferred terms.