Chasteau, Guillaume (1635-83; French), after Poussin, Nicolas (1594-1665; French)
Le jeune Pyrrhus sauvée [Pyrrhus hidden from the enemies of his father] 1676
Engraving & etching
Gift of George Collins Levey 1879
National Gallery of Victoria (p.183.38-1)
= Levey gift, cat.35
Poussin’s painting, one of several acquired by Louis XIV from the Duc de Richelieu in 1665, was formerly in Louis XIV’s Cabinet at Versailles. Dated 1634, it may have been painted originally for Pope Urban VIII’s chancellor Gian Maria Ruspoli.
The subject, also known under various French titles including Pyrrhus à la mamelle, and Le jeune Pyrrhus sauvée, is from Plutarch’s life of Pyrrhus (c.319-272 BCE). It refers to the episode when the 2-year-old Pyrrhus and his family went into hiding after his father Aeacides was removed from the throne of the Greek state of Epirus in 317 BCE.
Later, now himself king of Epirus (297-272 BCE), Pyrrhus became the most powerful military opponent of Roman ascendancy in southern Italy. The term “Pyrrhic victory” refers to the huge losses he incurred in defeating Rome at Asculum (now Ascoli Piceno) in 279 BCE; four years later he retreated from Italy.
Not listed in NGV 1895 or 1905
See https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/38188/ (not reproduced; as by an unknown engraver). Cf. Suite et Arrangement (1727), p.2; Duplessis Cabinet du roi (1869), p.7 (noting payments to Chasteau in 1676-77); http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb420294024 (IFF 17 Chasteau, 16).
For Poussin’s painting, see Louvre cat.IV (1986), p.144, Inv.7292 and http://cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=4658. For a well-referenced account of the historical background, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrrhus_of_Epirus