The Wallace Collection

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A Dance to the Music of Time
  • Nicolas Poussin (1594 - 1665)
  • A Dance to the Music of Time
  • Italy
  • c.1634 - c.1636
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 82.5 x 104 cm
    Object size: 108.5 x 130 x 8 cm
  • P108
  • Smoking Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • One of Poussin’s most famous masterpieces, the picture’s complex iconography was probably dictated by its patron Giulio Rospigliosi, later Pope Clement IX. Its first meaning is derived from Boitet de Frauville’s Les Dionysiaques, which describes how, following the complaints of Time and the Seasons, Jupiter gave Bacchus and his gift of wine to the world to alleviate the harsh conditions of human life. The dancing figures represent the Seasons: Autumn, normally shown as a woman, is here represented by the god of wine himself. It is probable that the scene was reinterpreted by Rospigliosi during the process of composition for the dancing figures came to be more generally identified with the perpetual cycle of the human condition itself: from Poverty, Labour leads to Riches and then to Pleasure which, if indulged in to excess, reverts to Poverty.