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Painting executed in about 1640-1642 by French artist Nicholas Poussin (original title Les Bergeres d'Arcadie), now in the Louvre. The painting shows three shepherds and a shepherdess contemplating the meaning of a tomb, on which is written the enigmatic phrase Et in Arcadia Ego. The painting was purchased by the King of France in the 1650's and remained part of the Royal collection until the revolution.

Classically, the interpretation of the painting has always been the discovery of the presence of death in paradise. Since the 1960's, however, conspiracy theorists have examined the painting in great detail, as it is the only one of the three prints ordered by Berenger Sauniere on his 1891 visit to Paris to have been definitively identified.

These thorists have been helped by the presence of a "tomb" a few miles from the village of Rennes-le-Chateau which bears a remarkable resemblance to the one in Poussin's painting, especially when viewed from the north as the southern skyline very closely matches that in the painting. Sadly, the tomb was demolished in the early 80's to deter treasure hunters.

Added weight was given to this thory when it was discovered that one of the hillocks to the right of the painting is the one on which Rennes sits. Recent examination of the painting suggests that at some point after Poussin's death, this hillock was inexpertly painted out to remove it from the picture, only to be restored by later cleaning.

A copy of the painting can be seen on-line at http://www.artchive.com/artchive/P/poussin/shepherds_of_arcadia.jpg.html

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