The four figures represent the wheel of human fortune that is; labor, pleasure, riches and poverty. Significant of labor is to lead one out of poverty into riches hence having the pleasure you require. Excesses of pleasure lead one back to poverty. The differences in figures are represented through positioning and clothing in this context, poverty becomes the male figure with his back facing the spectator.
The male figure is often in black. Poussin took the initiative of swapping his traditional scythe for Orpheus' lyre. In the aim of reinforcing the themes of painting, there is the placement of one small putto and an hour glass at Time's feet, on the other hand putto is clearly shown blowing bubbles which is a pictorial symbol of man's fragility in accordance to ancient mythology. In the heavens above, Apollo is discovered riding his chariot which is a sign of rising sun an indication of days that are passing.
In the process of Poussin's fusion of different representative and mythological figures, his painting demands that the spectator have a call on his or her intellect to reveal its meaning. This shows representation of myths in many of his narrative works. Aspiration of Poussin tries to use narrative painting to communicate the ideals and concepts. In his artistic work, medium used is oil on canvas, Poussin often used wax figures that are in the nude to help the artist in human anatomy depiction; afterwards there would be the variation of figures' position such as the little nude figures with the larger ones.
Poussin was totally different with other artists since he never allowed someone to help him. The planning of Poussin was quite extensive in every detail of his composition in creating maximum impact. The end result is that it will be dry and stiff to the contemporary viewer but the truth remains the style of Poussin was enormously impacting for the future of western art. Therefore, Poussin art work is characterized by order, logic, and clarity and favors line over color remaining an inspiration to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.