Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Twelve Ages of Man: The Second Three Ages of Man (18-36), or Summer

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. 174 1/2 x W. 289 inches (443.2 x 734.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of The Hearst Foundation in memory of William Randolph Hearst, 1953
Accession Number:
Not on view
This tapestry illustrates the second three ages of man, equated with the bridesman, in a tripartite composition. These eighteen years of life correspond to the months of April, May and June, and to the season of summer, presided over by Ceres, goddess of the harvest; she is identified in a Latin elegiac distich on a scroll in the border immediately below. Ceres is the usual deity of summer, but the pansies and daisies of her dress are not traditionally her flowers; they may refer here to Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands form 1507–1530. Margaret of Austria also owned a green parrot, which may be commemorated in the bird shown here.

Each of the three vertical sections includes a roundel at the top surrounded by twenty-four hourglasses on a ground that is light above and dark below, in varied proportions, according to the seasons. Each roundel contains a sign of the zodiac, here Taurus (erroneously: this should be Aries), Gemini and Cancer, and a figure symbolizing a month. The roundels are seen against the sky, which is dark blue at the top, and are flanked by winds, usually with their names inscribed on their bellows or elsewhere. Below the two outer roundels is a representation of the occupation of a month; here, gardening for April and sheep-shearing for June. Below the occupations and the center roundels are episodes from classical history, mythology, the Old Testament or the Apocryphal Gospels, each illustrating one of the twelve ages of man. Under April, is the Choice of Hercules, in which the sleeping youth Hercules proves his new-found maturity by choosing Minerva and Discipline over Venus and Vice. Under May, Venus and Adonis dally. Under June, the soldier being presented with arms is identified in his banderol as "Curius", therefore Marcus Curius Dentatus, who was prized for refusing brides from the Samnite ambassadors; however, since he seems to be accepting the arms, this is possibly an error and the triumphant young soldier is actually supposed to be Lucius Sicinius Dentatus whom, Pliny writes, was presented with arms in recognition of his bravery.

The two outer episodes have framed Latin distichs, supported by pedestals, between them and the occupation of the month above; the center episode has a similar inscription between it and the deity below. The verses refer to the story illustrated. In the upper border, on scrolls held by winged boys, are three Latin distichs connecting each month with an age in the life of man. In the lower border, flanking the inscription below the deity, are two medallions containing an animal, bird or object. The foregrounds of all the scenes are filled with flowering and fruiting plants.
Inscription: (border, upper left) Jam Taurus letos ostetat in arbore flores. / Sic spes virtutu prima iuventa notat.
[Now the Bull displays abundant flowers on the tree, so early youth shows hopes of virtue.]

(upper left) "Subsolans" [Subsolans, E wind]; "Zephyrus" [W wind]

(center, left) Alcides statuit prime sub flore Juvente / Dure virtutis inclyta signa sequi.
[Alcides in the flower of his early youth decided to follow the glorious standards of hard virtue.]

(border, upper center) Sub Geminis fructus arbos producit amoenos / Gignende soboli plenoir illa vacat.
[Under the Twins the tree produces pleasant fruit, riper youth has leisure to beget offspring.]

(center) Aurea dilectum Ven' [Venus] amplexatur Adoni. / Aspirat coeptis flora, Cupido favet.
[Golden Venus embraces the beloved Adonis, Flora assists the undertaking, Cupid is favorable.]

(lower border, center) Alma Ceres pleno profundens omnia cornu / Estive imperiu fertilitatis habet.
[Fostering Ceres, pouring out all things from her full horn, holds dominion over summer fertility.]

(border, upper right) Ut sata maturat ferventi Carcinus igne / Molie[t]ur Juvenis gesta superba ferox.
[As the Crab ripens the crops with burning wheat, the wild youth will undertake proud deeds.]

(upper right) "Flora"; "Eurus" [SE wind]; "Curius"

(center, right) Quavis inumeras Curius devicerat Urbes / Munera despexit. gloria sola satis.
[Although Curius had conquered innumerable cities, he disdained gifts. Glory alone was enough.]
possibly commissioned by Margaret of Austria, Queen of Spain ; Raimundo Ruiz ; sold to French & Co. ; [ French and Co., New York (until 1930; sold to William Randolph Hearst) ] ; William Randolph Hearst (1930–51) ; [ Saks Fifth Avenue with Gimbel Bros./Hammer Galleries, 1941 ] ; William Randolph Hearst Foundation (until 1953; to MMA)
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