A Dance to the Music of Time
oil on canvas
82.5 × 104 cm
The Wallace Collection, London, UK
Four figures, holding each other by the hand, dance in a circle, as Time plays a lyre on the right. The scene is set in the early morning, with Aurora, goddess of dawn, preceding the chariot of Apollo the sun-god in the sky behind; the Hours accompany him and he holds a ring representing the Zodiac. Today it is widely accepted that Dance to the Music of Time was meant to represent the passing of time, and the different stages of life on the rapidly revolving wheel of fortune: poverty, labor, wealth, and pleasure.
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), the greatest French artist of the 17th century, is considered one of the founders of European classicism, a movement in art, based on antique and Renaissance heritage.
He spent most of his working life in Rome, except for a short period when Cardinal Richelieu ordered him back to France to serve as First Painter to the King, Louis XIV.
Poussin's work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. His paintings had a profound influence on many later artists, in particular such classical and classicizing painters as Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso.