The Three Ages of Man and Death

The Three Ages of Man and Death, 1539, Baldung, Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain
The Three Ages of Man and Death, 1539, Baldung, Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

The Three Ages of Man and Death, 1539 was painted by Hans Baldung and is held in the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.

Death, with his hourglass and broken spear, leads an old woman by the arm. She, in turn, seeks to drag along a young woman at the height of her beauty. A baby lies sleeping on the ground, alongside an owl. A desolate and eerie landscape serves as the sinister setting. Christ appears in the sky, and there is a cross in the sun.

This painting and its companion, Harmony or The Three Graces (P2219) belong to the artist's last period. Together they describe a complex but clear moralizing allegory that alludes to the fragility of human existence in general, and the destruction of beauty in particular. This one is characterized by a tenebrous Germanic expressionism that tends to move the viewer in the manner of a vanitas, a reminder of the brevity of life.

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