Father Time by Pierre Puget?

Egyptian Late Kingdom Coffin
September 19, 2017



Medium and technique: marble; sculpture.

Provenance: private collection (France).

State of preservation: the arms and legs are lost.

Dating: probably around the late seventeenth century.


This statue probably shows a winged Chronos/Saturn/Winter (whose wings are missing), who is portrayed as an old, bald man with a long beard. His face is characterised by eyes without pupils and a small nose, while his facial features are generally not very marked, this probably being due to being time-worn. His face seems to express resignation to his fate (that is, devouring his children). The latter point may be indicated by the gaunt body, too, with ribs and muscles that are relatively well-defined but not deeply marked. The torso is twisted to the left, whilst his head is turned to the right and rests on the shoulder. The arms are missing, as also most of his legs, apart from the upper parts, which are anyway wrapped in a quite close-fitting cloth. The drapery appears accurate and precise in rendering the folds and creased parts of the garment.

Style and remarks:


The twisting of the torso definitely recalls statues of Puget or Parodi. In particular, the French artist tried extreme torsions as if to capture the space around, as can be seen in his statues portraying King David, Milo and even in the Saint Sebastian at Genoa. However, clear similarities are also to be found in Filippo Parodi´s Christ at the Column, specifically about pose, body proportions, pathetic expression and hair. This artist, Bernini´s favourite pupil, met Puget, with whom he collaborated in Genoa, where he made the Christ at the Column, probably after 1680, for decorating the palace of Eugenio Durazzo in Via Balbi. This work is 90 cm high, that is, of a similar size as the Chronos.

Also the pathos expressed on the face can well recall works of Puget or his school. Puget considered sculpture as transposition of painting and the statue of Chronos actually shows the expression and pose of some figures by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel.

The artist tried to surpass the Italian models and wanted to show his virtuosity also in the disposition of drapery in the main works like Milo, Saint Sebastian and Perseus and Andromeda. Scholars consider Puget the sculptor of suffering, this being represented by tense faces, specifically characterised by deep-set eyes, and complex postures as can be seen in Milo, Diogenes or Saint Sebastian.

In contrast, the drapery of the statue of Chronos is very close-fitting, anything but voluminous or fluffy, and so does not really match the characteristics of the French artist. As a matter of fact, almost every work attributed to Puget shows voluminous and bulky drapery, following Bernini and also Michelangelo. Only very few works of him have a close-fitting or wet drapery, as for example the Christ Dying on the Cross or The Assumption of the Virgin, which is anyway a bas-relief.

In addition, Puget, following his inclination as also his goals, like surpassing the Italian masters, aimed at accomplishing grand and monumental works. He had visited the Sistine Chapel and admired Bernini´s works at Villa Borghese and, since he considered himself an all-round artist, he always tried, at first in France and later in Genoa, to create grand works by blending the two styles and models.

Furthermore, amongst the paintings of the French master one can find several similarities with our work, as in the masterpiece The Education of Achilles (1694). Also the drawings for the Milo exactly show the same pose and pathos of the statue of Chronos.

A clear evidence seems to emerge from the works of his son, Francois Puget, too; specifically in Les Ovreues Personelles (1679-1707). Here, an old man is portrayed with an expression and features that definitely resemble figures made by his father as well as the Chronos in question. Also the Torture de Sainte-Barbe shows an old man with similar characteristics.

Another characteristic elaborated by Puget is the symmetrical tension of limbs as can be seen in the Milo of Croton, where the right leg and the left arm are stretched forward, and in the Saint Sebastian. The missing parts and, above all, the limbs of Chronos may suggest a similar composition. Unfortunately, this cannot be ascertained.

Our statue shows an extraordinary representational freedom; the artist tried to depict nature adding the pathetic element, according to the style of Puget. At the same time, he masterfully used traits which recall Girardon, as the resemblance between the Hiver of the latter and our Chronos can well attest. His emaciated musculature, the rendering of his beard, but also the inclination of his head are similar. Another work which may connect our statue with Girardon is the Winter Fountain at Versailles. Girardon rendered the allegory using the same iconographic style, being Winter represented as a winged, bald, bearded old man who, almost recumbent, twists his torso to the left and looks backwards.


The association of Chronos/Saturn with Time was reintroduced by the Platonic Academy of Florence, founded in 1462, and, in terms of artistic works, began to be symbolised by a new attribute, namely wings. However, such a representation does not seem to have been welcomed soon after this date, since one cannot really find good parallels until the seventeenth century. Moreover, non clear comparisons come from Italy, although some Italian artists or schools may have influenced the sculptor of this statue as its expression and the execution of its facial features may recall works by Alessandro Vittoria (Saint Jerome, c. 1565) or Bernini himself (i.e., David, 1623-24). Either direct or indirect, an influence of this kind can actually be assumed in general terms, especially for a time when a stay in Italy was almost the rule for several European artists.


Versailles was no exception; however, it is the very French context of the late seventeenth century that offers the best examples for the statue here concerned, according to subject and/or characteristics of execution. Whereas at least one of the captives, in the monument of the Four Defeated Nations made by Martin Dejardins (1682-85), can only resemble the expression and features of our Chronos, closer comparisons come, among others, from Francois Girardon´s Saturn in the Hiver (1672-77) and, above all, from Pierre Puget (in spite of different subjects). As a whole, the works of the latter sculptor display several characteristics that are also found in this winged Chronos (see, for example, his Milo of Croton, 1671-82); specifically, about the technical execution, the similar twisting of the body has to be emphasised, that is, a real and beloved leitmotif in the works of the “French Bernini”.



This statue of Chronos appears to be a Baroque work made in central Europe (either in France or Germany; however, it may also be Italian). The two main characteristics of it are the pathos of expression and the very twisted pose, with his head turned to look backwards. Such characteristics derive from Roman Mannerism and Baroque, specifically from the works of Michelangelo and Bernini. The twisting of the torso and the pathos of the expression recall the work of Pierre Puget, outstanding French artist, who had trained in Rome and opened his workshop in Genoa in the sixties of the seventeenth century. The body and muscles proportions of the Chronos and the comparison with the above-mentioned Hiver, draw a clear parallel with works of the renowned Francois Girardon, who worked in France during the seventeenth century and in particular at Versailles, where he made the amazing Fountain that represents Saturn/Chronos/Winter, actually three subjects often portrayed in the same style. Chronos is here depicted as a winged and bald old man. On the other hand, Puget, in the only preserved statue portraying Saturn, interpreted this subject in a completely different way. Amongst the artists whose works show clear similarities with the Chronos here analysed, one should include Filippo Parodi, who was born in Genoa and trained in Rome, where became Bernini´s favourite pupil. During his activity he collaborated with Puget in Genoa itself. The experimentations of the French master were definitely adopted by Parodi as emerges from the Christ at the Column, in which twisting, proportions as also pathos reached extraordinary levels and, above all, are definitely compatible with our Chronos.

This statue of Chronos was then made in Europe in the late seventeenth century, namely, within the Baroque context, which is actually well reflected in this work. It is not possible at the moment to attribute this statue to one of the three great masters mentioned above; however, one may put forward that it was probably made at the workshop/school of Puget or Parodi, or at least by someone who knew their models and reinterpreted them in an extraordinary way.


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