Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Bowdoin College Museum of Art Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Advanced Search

IIIF Logo
Image loading...
IIIF Logo

Artists

John Smibert (Edinburgh, 1688 - 1751, Boston, Massachusetts); Nicolas Poussin (Normandy, France, 1594 - 1665)

Title

The Continence of Scipio

Creation Date

ca. 1726

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, United States

Medium and Support

oil on canvas

Credit Line

Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III

Copyright

Public Domain

Accession Number

1813.10
The College’s founder James Bowdoin III (1752–1811) understood European artistic traditions to be essential to education and bequeathed his art collection to the College upon his death. He acquired this copy after Nicolas Poussin’s The Continence of Scipio of 1640 (now at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow) from the Boston, Massachusetts, studio of John Smibert, where it served as an exemplar of the classical style for a generation of American artists. It tells the story of the Roman general Scipio, who returned a female captive to her fiancé rather than enslaving her. As a parable of self-control and the expansion of empire through virtue and valor, the scene became exceptionally popular when the burgeoning United States built its own identity. In this spirit, the painting was understood to provide moral guidance to Bowdoin students in the College’s early years.

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.