Apollo and the Muses
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Claude Lorrain
French, 1674
Pen and brown wash, heightened with white gouache, over black chalk
8 3/8 x 22 7/8 in.

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The nine Muses, goddesses of poetic inspiration and the creative arts, surround the god Apollo, who plays a lira di braccio. They gather along the Castelian spring, which flows through the center of the scene. Famous in ancient times as a source of inspiration and learning, this place was appropriate for making music and contemplating the beauty of Mount Parnassus. An identifying inscription fills a cartouche beside each Muse.

Claude Lorrain's friezelike composition, with figures balanced carefully along the foreground plane, reflects the influence of fellow Baroque artist Nicolas Poussin, Claude's contemporary and rival. The substantial forms of the Muses fill the scene, blocking much of the more delicate landscape that was Claude's most frequent subject. This drawing is unique in his work in showing large-scale figures accompanied by inscriptions.

Scholars do not know why the artist made this drawing. Claude or a patron may have wanted to retain a copy of an earlier composition or, more likely, to remember the identification of the figures in the picture.

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