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The Dance of Time: Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock

Spherical glass and gilt-brass clock supported by a terracotta sculpture of a pillar surrounded by three nude female figures

Sculptor: Claude Michel Clodion  (1738–1814)
The Dance of Time: Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock, 1788
Terracotta, brass, gilt brass, silvered brass, steel and glass
40 3/4 in. (103.5 cm)
Sculpture: 21 3/8 × 12 3/4 × 8 1/4 in. (54.3 × 32.4 × 21 cm)
Globe: diam. 10 13/16 in. (27.5 cm)
Purchased through the Winthrop Kellogg Edey bequest, 2006 (2006.2.02)

In the spring of 2006, the institution purchased an undisputed masterpiece of both sculpture and clockmaking, The Dance of Time: Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock. It features a timepiece by Lepaute, the firm of clockmakers working for Kings Louis XV and XVI, as well as a remarkable sculpture by Claude Michel, called Clodion. In the eighteenth century, this object was recognized as one of the artist’s masterpieces in the terracotta medium, and one of the Lepautes’ greatest creations. Indeed, The Dance of Time is also the only known eighteenth-century clock that features terracotta not as a sketch medium but as finished sculpture. Created in 1788 for celebrated architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, the object was also the first such clock designed by Lepaute for a glass globe (and the only one in which the original glass survives).