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Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Time orders Old Age to destroy Beauty

Key facts
Full title Time orders Old Age to destroy Beauty
Artist Pompeo Girolamo Batoni
Artist dates 1708 - 1787
Date made 1746
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 135.3 × 96.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1961
Inventory number NG6316
Location Room 40
Collection Main Collection
Time orders Old Age to destroy Beauty
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni

Time, the winged figure holding an hourglass, orders his companion Old Age to disfigure the face of a young woman, the personification of Beauty. This interaction encourages us to consider the brevity of youth and the inevitable passing of time.

Batoni often drew from a live model when preparing his paintings: perhaps the aged face of the balding and bearded Time, and the wrinkled complexion and leathery, tanned skin of Old Age were inspired by the models who sat to him. Equally, though, the classical art that surrounded Batoni in Rome was a major influence on his work: here, both Time and Beauty’s poses are based on classical statues. Time’s wings seem to emulate the soft texture of feathers as well as the hard stone of a sculpture.

This work and its companion piece An Allegory of Lasciviousness (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) were commissioned by Bartolomeo Talenti, one of several noblemen from Lucca who supported Batoni’s early career during the early 1740s.

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