Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

The Twelve Ages of Man: The First Three Ages of Man (Birth-18), or Spring

Probably after a design by the Workshop of Bernard van Orley (Netherlandish, Brussels ca. 1492–1541/42 Brussels)
Author of inscriptions possibly Jerome van Busleyden (Hieronymus Buslidius) (ca. 1470–1517)
ca. 1515
Flemish, Brussels
Wool, silk (16-20 warps per inch, 6-8 per cm.)
H. 163 x W. 284 inches (414 x 721.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of The Hearst Foundation in memory of William Randolph Hearst, 1953
Accession Number:
Not on view
The first of a set of four tapestries illustrating the life of man as divided into twelve periods of six years. Venus, in the center, stands for the springtime of life; the symbols and occupations of three months, January, February, and March, represent the years from birth to eighteen. The stories show Moses, as a child, choosing a burning coal instead of a piece of gold; a Roman boy, Papirius, explaining to the Senators how he had tricked his mother in order to conceal their secrets; and the youthful Alexander astonishing the Persian ambassadors by his shrewdness.
Inscription: (border, upper left) Ut riget informis sub Aquari sydere tellus / Sic primis annis mente stupescit homo.
[As the ugly earth freezes under the constellation of the Water-bearer, so man is benumbed in mind in his first years.]

(upper left) "Trasecas" [for Thrascias, NNW wind], "Aquilo" [NE wind]

(center, left) Disciderat Moses raptam de fronte coronam. / Sed pueru insontem prunula morsa docet.
[Moses had broken the crown stolen from (Pharaoh's) brow, but the bite of a burning coal shows the boy innocent.]

(border, upper center) At gemini sensim dissolunt [for dissolvunt] pascua Pisces
Annus ut obtusum septimus ingenium.
[But the twin Fishes gradually thaw out the meadows, as does the seventh year the dull mind.]

(upper center) "Notus" [S wind]

(center) Du tractata cupit mater rescire senatus. / A Pretextato luditur illa suo.
[When the mother wishes to know what has been discussed in the Senate, her boy in his youthful toga praetextata, mocks her.]

(border, lower center) Subdita lascive Veneri si tempera nescis / In placido regnat candida vere Cypris.
[If thou knowest not the season ruled by wanton Venus, the radiant Cyprian reigns in tranquil Spring.]

(border, upper right) Luxuriosa putat foecundi germina veris / Martius, ut pueri Pedia stulticiam.
[March prunes the rand sprouts of fecund Spring, as Education does the foolishness of a boy.]

(center, right) Reddit Alexader resposu a perside missis / Tam docte, ut pueri verba stupeda foret.
[Alexander replied so skillfully to the Persian envoys that they were astounded by the works of the boy.]
possibly commissioned by Margaret of Austria, Queen of Spain ; A. Sanchez (until 1930; sold to Lionel Harris) ; Lionel Harris (from 1930) ; [ Spanish Art Gallery, London (until 1933; sold to French & Co.) ] ; [ French and Co., New York (1933–34; sold to William Randolph Hearst) ] ; William Randolph Hearst (1934–51) ; [ Saks Fifth Avenue with Gimbel Bros./Hammer Galleries, 1941 ] ; William Randolph Hearst Foundation (until 1953; to MMA)
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