Poussin vs Rubens: Which painter was better according to the French royal court dispute?


In this weeks readings, a dispute in the French royal court is described about whether Poussin or Rubens was the better painter. Take a painting by each, either from our book or a Website below, and compare them and explain which you prefer. There is another conflict between the playwright Moliere and a well-born Parisian; Louis XIV stepped in. Explain how Louis XIV used the various arts and his motives for doing so. Identify one (1) example of a modern political leader approaching the arts this way.The philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke disagreed on the understanding of political authority, with Locke taking what is commonly called the liberal view. Choose a side (be brave perhaps; take a side you actually disagree with). Using the writings of each given in our class text or at the Websites below, make your case for the side you chose and against the other side. Identify one (1) modern situation in the world where these issues are significant.Explore:The Arts and RoyaltyChapter 23 (pp. 742-755); Rubens; Poussin; Moliere; royalty using the arts; review the Week 2 Music FolderRubens and Poussin at http://www.visitmuseums.com/exhibition/from-baroque-to-classicism-rubens-poussin-and-17th-85 and http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/p/poussin/biograph.htmlPhilosophers Debate PoliticsChapter 24 (pp. 776-7; 803-805)Hobbes: text at http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes/leviathan-contents.html; summary at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/; also http://jim.com/hobbes.htmLocke: text at http://www.thenagain.info/Classes/Sources/Locke-2ndTreatise.html; General background of the concept at http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/teachers/lesson_plans/pdfs/unit1_12.pdf


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The arts have played a significant role in politics and culture throughout history. From disputes among notable artists to the use of art by royalty as a symbol of power, the arts have been an essential tool for shaping society. Similarly, political philosophy has been the subject of intense debate, with philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke holding contrasting views on the role of political authority. In this context, modern political leaders continue to use the arts to achieve their objectives and shape public opinion.


This week’s readings explore the multiple dimensions of the relationship between the arts, politics, and philosophy. The controversy in the French royal court between the artists Poussin and Rubens provides an opportunity to examine the role of art in society. By comparing the paintings of each artist, we can evaluate the impact of their artworks and determine which one is the best according to our preferences. Additionally, we analyze how Louis XIV used the arts as a tool for consolidating his power in French society.

The philosophical debate between Hobbes and Locke on political authority offers valuable insights into modern political discourse. By taking a side on their views, we can explore the strengths and weaknesses of each argument and evaluate their relevance to current political issues. In this context, we identify a contemporary situation where these issues are salient and pertinent. Therefore, in this week’s readings, we aim to explore the multifaceted ways in which the arts and political philosophy intersect to affect the societies we live in.

– To understand the conflicts and disputes in the French royal court regarding the arts
– To examine the ways in which political leaders use the arts for their motives
– To gain an understanding of the philosophical debate on political authority between Hobbes and Locke, and its relevance to modern situations

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this exercise, the learner will be able to:
– Analyze and compare paintings by Rubens and Poussin and form an informed opinion
– Explain Louis XIV’s usage of the arts and how it reflects his motives
– Defend their chosen side of the Hobbes-Locke debate and contrast it with the other perspective
– Identify a modern situation relevant to the Hobbes-Locke debate and explain its significance

1. The Arts and Royalty

Heading: Comparing Rubens and Poussin’s Art

Learning Outcome: Analyze and compare paintings by Rubens and Poussin and form an informed opinion

Students will choose one painting each by Rubens and Poussin, either from the provided websites or the course textbook. They will compare and contrast the two paintings and provide an analysis of the techniques used, the style, and the overall impression. Students will then explain which painting they prefer and justify their choice with relevant examples from the analysis.

Heading: Louis XIV and the Arts

Learning Outcome: Explain Louis XIV’s usage of the arts and how it reflects his motives

Students will research and analyze Louis XIV’s use of the arts during his reign. They will explore his patronage of artists and musicians, his creation of the Palace of Versailles as a center of art and culture, and how he used art to solidify his power. Students will also examine the motives behind Louis XIV’s support of the arts, such as propaganda or personal enjoyment.

2. Philosophers Debate Politics

Heading: Hobbes vs. Locke

Learning Outcome: Defend their chosen side of the Hobbes-Locke debate and contrast it with the other perspective

Students will choose a side in the Hobbes-Locke debate on political authority that they disagree with. They will then use the provided texts and other resources to construct a persuasive argument defending their chosen side while critiquing the other. Students should use evidence from the texts as well as broader historical and contemporary examples to support their arguments.

Heading: Relevance of Hobbes-Locke to Modern Politics

Learning Outcome: Identify a modern situation relevant to the Hobbes-Locke debate and explain its significance

Students will research and analyze a current political situation where the Hobbes-Locke debate regarding political authority is relevant. They should present a summary of the situation and explain how each philosopher’s perspective could be used to interpret it. Students should also evaluate the implications of this debate for contemporary politics.

Solution 1: Comparing Rubens and Poussin paintings

Rubens and Poussin were two of the most prominent painters during the Baroque period in the 17th century. Rubens was known for his use of color and dramatic scenes, while Poussin was recognized for his classical compositions and use of line. If we were to compare two of their paintings, Rubens’ “The Descent from the Cross” and Poussin’s “The Death of Germanicus,” we can see their different styles.

In Rubens’ painting, we see a very dramatic and emotional scene with the dead body of Jesus being taken down from the cross. The use of bold colors and dramatic lighting adds to the intensity of the scene. On the other hand, in Poussin’s painting, we see a more classical composition with a focus on the figures and the use of lines to create balance and harmony. The scene depicted is the death of Germanicus, a historical event in ancient Rome.

Personally, I prefer Poussin’s painting as I find the composition and use of lines very pleasing to the eye. Rubens’ painting, although very powerful, can be overwhelming with its use of intense colors and dramatic lighting.

Solution 2: Louis XIV and his use of the arts

Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, was a patron of the arts during his reign. He used the arts as a way to promote his power and authority. By commissioning grandiose works of art and architecture, Louis XIV symbolized his superiority over his subjects and foreign powers.

One example of Louis XIV’s use of the arts was the construction of the Palace of Versailles. This grandiose palace was meant to showcase the wealth and power of the French monarchy. The palace was filled with works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and tapestries, many of which depicted Louis XIV and his accomplishments.

In modern times, we can see similar uses of the arts by political leaders. For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been known to use art and culture as a way to promote Russian nationalism and assert his authority. In 2015, he opened the Museum of Military Glory, which showcased Russia’s military might and accomplishments. This museum serves as an example of how political leaders can use the arts to promote their agendas and display their power.

Suggested Resources/Books:

1. “Rivalry and the Arts: Poussin and Rubens” by David Freedberg
2. “Louis XIV and the Arts” by Anthony Blunt
3. “Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction” by David Miller

Similar Asked Questions:

1. How did Louis XIV use the arts to further his political agenda and maintain power?
2. What were the key differences between the political philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke?
3. In what ways do modern political leaders use the arts to influence public opinion and further their agendas?
4. How did the rivalry between Poussin and Rubens reflect broader cultural and political tensions of the time?
5. How have debates over political authority and individual rights evolved since the time of Hobbes and Locke?

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