View and zoom into this image on our new collection website
A Dance to the Music of Time About 1640

Not on display

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.

Glossary Open


When an individual or organisation employs an artist to execute a particular project, the process and the resulting work are termed a ‘commission’.


The ability to draw skilfully, often refers to technical drawing.


A chubby, naked boy, sometimes winged, frequently associated with representations of Greek and Roman gods of love.


The representation of subjects or ideas by use of a device or motif to create underlying meaning. A literary and artistic movement that originated in France and spread through much of Europe in the late 19th century. There was no consistent style but rather an appeal to the idea of the artist as mystic or visionary and the desire to express a world beyond superficial appearances.

Commission, Draughtsmanship, Putto , Symbolism


  • Acc. No. D 5127
  • Medium Pen, brown ink and wash on paper; traces of squaring on black chalk
  • Size 14.80 x 19.90 cm (framed: 44.00 x 59.00 cm)
  • Credit 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