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The first pictorial representation of "ET IN ARCADIA EGO" theme that was popularized in 16th-century Venice, now made more concrete and vivid by the inscription "ET IN ARCADIA EGO", is (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri Guercino)'s (1591 - 1666) version, painted between 1618 and 1622 (in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome), in which the inscription gains force from the prominent presence of a skull in the foreground, beneath which the words are carved.

Nicolas Poussin's (1594 - 1665) own first version (Les Bergers d'Arcadie I) of the painting (now in Chatsworth House, Chatsworth is close Shugborough) was probably
commissioned as a reworking of Guercino's version. It is in a far more Baroque style than the later version, characteristic of Poussin's early work. In the Chatsworth painting the shepherds are actively discovering the half-hidden and overgrown tomb, and are reading the inscription with curious expressions. The shepherdess, standing at the left, is posed in sexually suggestive fashion, very different from her austere counterpart in the later version. The later version has a far more geometric composition and the figures are much more contemplative. The mask-like face of the shepherdess conforms to the conventions of the Classical "Greek profile".

In 1685 it entered the collection of Louis XIV and over the next two centuries inspired artists, writers and poets alike.

Les Bergers d'Arcadie I


Guercino's Version









Elizabeth Anson



In 1751, Thomas Hudson painted Lady Anson holding a partly rolled copy of an earlier Poussin painting on the same theme known as Les Bergers d'Arcadie I. The Duke of Devonshire owned the original Les Bergers d'Arcadie I  at the time. He lived at Chatsworth, quite close to Shugborough.





Nicolas Poussin

Tomb of Nicolas Poussin



It was this painting which would be copied in bas-relief by Louis Deprez in the 19th century for the monument conceived by Chateaubriand in Rome at San Lorenzo in Lucina to mark Poussin's burial place.




Les Bergers d'Arcadie II

While the phrase "et in Arcadia ego" is a nominal phrase with no finite verb, it is a perfectly acceptable construction in Latin. Pseudohistorians unaware of that aspect of Latin grammar have concluded that the sentence is incomplete, missing a verb, and have speculated that it represents some esoteric message concealed in a (possibly  anagrammatic) code.

Poussin's second biographer, Andre Felibien, interpreted Et In Arcadia Ego as: "This inscription emphasizes the fact that the person buried in this tomb has lived in Arcady".

In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, under the false impression that "et in Arcadia ego" was not a proper Latin sentence, proposed that it is an anagram for "I! Tego arcana Dei", which translates to "Begone! I keep God's secrets", suggesting that the tomb contains the remains of Jesus or another important Biblical figure. They claimed that Poussin was privy to this secret and that he depicted an actual location. The authors did not explain why the tomb depicted in the second version of the painting should contain this secret while the distinctly different one in the first version presumably does not. Ultimately, this view is dismissed by art historians.

In their book The Tomb of God, Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger, developing these ideas, have theorized that the Latin sentence misses the word "sum". They argue that the extrapolated phrase Et in Arcadia ego sum could be an anagram for "Arcam Dei Tango Iesu", which would mean "I touch the tomb of God Jesus". Their argument assumes that:

1.   the Latin phrase is incomplete
2.   the extrapolation as to the missing words is correct
3.   the sentence, once completed, is intended to be an anagram
4.   Andrews and Schellenberger selected the proper anagram out of the thousands of possibilities.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Et in Arcadia ego". This article also uses materials from ,

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