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Nicolas Poussin (1594 -1665)

Oil on canvas
95.5 x 121cm

One of the surviving Seven Sacraments painted in Rome for the renowned scholar and connoisseur Cassiano dal Pozzo, Extreme Unction (‘Final Anointing’) has long been considered by critics to be the finest work from one of the most remarkable series of paintings ever conceived. It depicts a dying man being anointed with oil in accordance with the rites of the early Church. The painting is of critical importance to the study of western art. Poussin’s work has influenced many great painters from David and Ingres to Cézanne and even Picasso, and continues to inspire artists to this day.

The painting was acquired after a successful campaign by the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Art Fund to raise £3.9m, with the help of a substantial grant of approximately £3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and almost £1 million in donations from members of the public and charitable organisations. This allowed the Fitzwilliam Museum to take advantage of an extraordinary opportunity provided by HM Government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme to acquire the painting for £3.9m instead of its market value of £14m. For the Museum, this is one of the most significant Old Master acquisitions in nearly a century.

Acquisition date: 2012