The exact 'biography' of the painting is not known for certain. We are not sure who commissioned it and who owned it in its early history. It is well conjectured that the 'chevalier' Henri Avice most certainly had possession of the canvas before 1662. There is no evidence that he commissioned it. We do know the painting was listed as an asset of Charles Antoine Herault (1644-1718). There are of course references to the King buying the painting from Herault.
In conversation with Adrian Lodge, who has given me permission to repeat this information, we discussed a new 'connection' that he had discovered. The King had purchased 'Shepherds of Arcadia' along with another painting by Poussin, one called 'La Sainte Famille avec St Jean et Sainte Elisabeth dans un paysage'.
The King bought both in 1685 for 6000 Francs. And the interesting connection? La Sainte Famille was painted by Poussin to be given as a wedding present (in February 1651) to Marie Madeleine de Castile - from her husband to be - who was none other than Nicolas Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finances in France from 1653 until 1661 under King Louis XIV.
Were the two paintings supposed to be read together perhaps? And did Fouquet order the painting for his wife personally from Poussin? In other words, was their relationship alot closer than we think?
Welcome to the blog of Rhedesium
My name is Sandy Hamblett, inspired and passionate researcher of the mysteries at Rennes-les-Bains.