About this artwork

Poussin's drawings were nearly always made as preparatory studies for paintings. In this impressive example of his draughtsmanship strong shadows and rhythmic contours complement the vigorous movement of the figures. The central dancers are intended to personify poverty, labour, wealth and pleasure, alluding to fortune and the cycle of life. Father Time accompanies them on the lyre, while two putti play with an hour glass and blow bubbles, both symbols of life's brevity. This is the only known drawing for a painting (in the Wallace Collection, London) commissioned by Cardinal Giulio Rospigliosi (later Pope Clement IX), who dictated its subject.

Updated before 2020

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  • artist:
  • title:
    A Dance to the Music of Time
  • date created:
    About 1640
  • materials:
    Pen, brown ink and wash on paper; traces of squaring on black chalk
  • measurements:
    14.80 x 19.90 cm (framed: 44.00 x 59.00 cm)
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Purchased by Private Treaty, with the aid of the Art Fund (Scottish Fund), the Pilgrim Trust, the Edith M. Ferguson Bequest and contributions from two private donors, 1984
  • accession number:
    D 5127
  • gallery:
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve
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Nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin