Clock with vestals, c. 1790

French queen Marie-Antoinette, when told that her people had no bread to eat, allegedly said, “Then let them eat cake.” The story is untrue, but she did seem out of touch with the common man. For example, she had a clock just like this in her bathroom at a time when wealthy individuals might have one clock in the whole house. The clock’s design comes from a collection of engravings by the painter Hubert Robert, who dedicated them to the young queen. The composition depicts two Vestal Virgins (followers of Vesta, goddess of the hearth) with costumes and hairstyles inspired by classical antiquity, carrying an altar with the sacred fire. The base, supported by panthers, is decorated with a frieze of playing putti and two plaques depicting Clio, muse of history, and Urania, muse of astronomy.



Thomire, Clock with Vestals (#045)
Clock with vestals
Artist Life
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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