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Detailed Paintings Can Seem Frozen in Time

Nicolas Poussin’s Rape of the Sabine Women, 1634, depicts untold acts of savagery which are frozen in time. The painting does not depict the frenzied action that is occurring.

When a scene is changing rapidly, it is impossible to register all the details. In contrast, the painting at right by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) seems static, frozen in time. We can see every detail of the woman being savaged, yet the scene itself is quickly moving. There is an inherent conflict between what is conveyed and what is to be conveyed.

What emerges from this example is the inability of a conventional two-dimensional image to convey movement. One way an artist can convey movement is to excite our peripheral vision.