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.

  • title: A Dance to the Music of Time
  • accession number: D 5127
  • artist: Nicolas PoussinFrench (1594 - 1665)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • date created: About 1640
  • measurements: 14.80 x 19.90 cm (framed: 44.00 x 59.00 cm)
  • 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
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin

Poussin aimed to achieve a pure and noble style of painting inspired by the classical ideals of ancient art and the work of Raphael. Born in Normandy, he trained in Paris before arriving in Rome in 1624. Apart from a brief return to Paris (1640-42) he remained in Rome. He did not employ assistants and preferred painting for private patrons, Italian and French, who shared his scholarly and artistic interests. His work exerted a profound influence on French academic painting. The formal structure and rigour of his compositions, however, has continued to inspire modern artists.