Jean-Baptiste Lepaute

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

Jean-Baptiste Lepaute (1727−1802)
Claude Michel Clodion (1738−1814)
The Dance of Time, Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock
Paris, 1788
Terracotta, gilt brass, and glass
H.: 40 3/4 in in. (H.: 103.5 cm)
Purchased by The Frick Collection through the Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey, 2006
Accession number: 2006.2.02

With trussed hair and flowing drapery, these young dancing nymphs recall the grace and beauty of classical art, yet Clodion also renders these figures with lush realism, balancing each on one foot.  As the nymphs turn around a fluted column, their garments swirl around them. The French sculptor Clodion, one of the most inventive and technically gifted sculptors of the eighteenth century, trained in Rome, where he studied classical statuary and discovered an affinity for working in clay. 

This clock istelf was designed by renowned Parisian clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Lepaute.  The transparent sphere makes visible the sparkling clock’s mechanisms — the pendulum, rotating dial, and small bell.  When the clock chimes on the hour, its delicate sounds give voice to the nymphs’ dance, revealing the harmonious collaboration of clockmaker and sculptor.

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