Painting executed in about 1640-1642 by French artist Nicholas Poussin
(original title Les Bergeres d'Arcadie
), now in the Louvre
painting shows three shepherds and a shepherdess contemplating the meaning of a
tomb, on which is written the enigmatic phrase Et in Arcadia Ego
. The painting
was purchased by the King of France in the 1650's and remained part of the Royal
collection until the revolution.
Classically, the interpretation of the painting has always been the discovery of
the presence of death in paradise. Since the 1960's, however, conspiracy
theorists have examined the painting in great detail, as it is the only one of
the three prints ordered by Berenger Sauniere on his 1891 visit to Paris to
have been definitively identified.
These thorists have been helped by the presence of a "tomb" a few miles from the
village of Rennes-le-Chateau which bears a remarkable resemblance to the one
in Poussin's painting, especially when viewed from the north as the southern
skyline very closely matches that in the painting. Sadly, the tomb was
demolished in the early 80's to deter treasure hunters.
Added weight was given to this thory when it was discovered that one of the
hillocks to the right of the painting is the one on which Rennes sits. Recent
examination of the painting suggests that at some point after Poussin's death,
this hillock was inexpertly painted out to remove it from the picture, only to
be restored by later cleaning.
A copy of the painting can be seen on-line at