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A Dance to the Music of Time, circa 1634-36, by Nicolas Poussin
Father Time plays his lyre and the seasons dance to his tune.
Poussin takes the theme of transience to elaborate allegorical heights in one of his most famous and quoted classical compositions.
One of the dancers is Bacchus, god of wine, whose harvest in autumn is an image of maturing and ripeness.
To the left of the dancers is a Roman herm that faces both ways, another mythological depiction of time. In the sky is the chariot of the sun god Apollo.
It is a bright day, and this is an optimistic and confident painting, for as the seasons trip by they bring different pleasures – such as autumn’s wine.
The circularity of it all is reassuring. The dancers are strong, and strongly connected. Life is an eternal cycle. This dance of time is timeless.•
At the Wallace Collection, London.