The Dance of Time

Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814)
Jean-Baptiste Lepaute (1727–1802)
The Dance of Time: Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock, 1788
Terracotta, gilt brass, glass
40 3/4 in. (103.5 cm)
The Frick Collection, New York; Purchased through the Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey

On view in the Portico Gallery July–October 2014
On view in the Fragonard Room beginning October 2014

Clodion’s base for a glass-enclosed clock by the renowned horologist Lepaute provides a daring variation on the theme of animated caryatids (female figures providing architectural support) that he explored nearly two decades earlier in his Three Graces. With outstretched limbs, the nymphs flout their role as buttresses for the pillar they surround. The circular momentum of their joyous dance, suggested by their billowing draperies, proceeds in unison with the rhythm of the clock’s pendulum and the horizontal rotation of its dial. Together, Clodion’s figures and Lepaute’s timepiece epitomize the beauty, modernity, and classicism that defined the art of the Enlightenment.