Compassion and suffering: Clive Ashwin has some lessons from the arts

‘The historical realities demanding compassion are constantly changing.’

‘Before the modern age we were protected from the force and immediacy of much human suffering by both distance and time.’ | Photo: Landscape with Man Killed by a Snake, Nicolas Poussin, 1648

Landscape with Man Killed by a Snake, by the French seventeenth-century painter Nicolas Poussin (on display at the National Gallery, and pictured) tells a curious and macabre story. In the foreground a man lies dead at the edge of a lake, in the coils of a huge serpent. A second man, who has witnessed the scene, flees with his arms outstretched in horror to raise the alarm.

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