This painting is one of Dosso Dossi's finest surviving landscapes, a genre for which he was famous. The three ages of man are represented by two boys peeping behind a bush on the right, by two lovers on the left, and by two old men in the right background. Dosso’s wit is seen in the detail of the goats that appear to spy on the young lovers.
Giovanni de Lutero, known as Dosso Dossi, painted this landscape with figures soon after becoming court artist to Duke Alfonso I d’Este of Ferrara, where the artist arrived by July 1513. The subject is generally given as the Three Ages of Man, analogous to Titian’s well-known painting of the subject (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh), with "youth" represented by the youngsters who watch the amorous couple, who in turn represent "maturity", while the two men in the background symbolize "old age". However, as x-radiography has shown that the old men are a late addition to the composition, painted over the vegetation, and given the mischievous nature of the boys who spy on the lovers (who are drolly crowded by the herd of goats), it is possible that the artist was aiming to depict a pastoral idyll rather than so precise a subject (Berenson 1932). This would be in keeping with his growing reputation as a landscape painter whose works could be divided between subject pictures (called his "proper works" by the contemporary historian Paolo Giovio) and landscapes known by the classical term parerga, or "embellishments" intended to delight the eye (Humfrey 1998). Because such a prominent landscape was rare at this date, some critics have suggested that the painting is a fragment of a larger composition (Tietze-Conrat 1948, Dreyer 1964), but technical examination has shown that all of the edges are original save for the right, which has lost about 3 1/2 inches (Bayer 2003). Dosso seems to have been influenced by the recent works of Giorgione and Titian in Venice for both the composition and the painterly technique, but also by northern artists such as Albrecht Altdorfer, whose drawings and prints include amorous couples set in lush and mysterious forests (Ballarin 1993).
[L. Bernasconi, Milan, until 1909; sold to Ehrich]; [Ehrich Galleries, New York, 1909–18]; [Oswald Sirén, Stockholm, possibly with Edward Hutton, London, 1918–26; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscape Paintings," May 14–September 30, 1934, no. 2.
Worcester Art Museum. "Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition of the Art of Europe during the XVIth–XVIIth Centuries," April 11–May 16, 1948, no. 1.
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Venetian Tradition," November 9, 1956–January 1, 1957, no. 12.
Seattle Art Museum. "2500 Years of Italian Art and Civilization," November 10–December 8, 1957, no. 109.
Indianapolis Museum of Art. "Treasures from the Metropolitan," October 25, 1970–January 3, 1971, no. 70.
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. "Nell'età di Correggio e dei Carracci: pittura in Emilia dei secoli XVI e XVII," September 10–November 10, 1986, no. 35.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," December 19, 1986–February 16, 1987, no. 35.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," March 26–May 24, 1987, no. 35.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Pastoral Landscape: The Legacy of Venice," November 6, 1988–January 22, 1989, no. 13.
Paris. Grand Palais. "Le siècle de Titien: L'âge d'or de la peinture à Venise," March 9–June 14, 1993, no. 78.
Ferrara. Civiche Gallerie d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea. "Dosso Dossi: pittore di corte a Ferrara nel Rinascimento," September 26–December 14, 1998, no. 10.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dosso Dossi: Court Painter in Renaissance Ferrara," January 14–March 28, 1999, no. 10.
Los Angeles. J. Paul Getty Museum. "Dosso Dossi: Court Painter in Renaissance Ferrara," April 27–July 11, 1999, no. 10.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 2.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 6, 2012–January 4, 2013, no. 7.
Beijing. National Museum of China. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 8–May 9, 2013, no. 7.
[Morton H.] Bernath. Archiv für Kunstgeschichte 2 (1914), unpaginated, pl. 91, as "Landschaft mit mythologischen Figuren," at the Ehrich Galleries, New York; dates it 1510–20.
Henriette Mendelsohn. Das Werk der Dossi. Munich, 1914, pp. 72, 219, ill. p. 71, as "Landschaft mit Figuren," formerly [sic] in the Ehrich collection, New York; states that Berenson first recognized it as by Dosso and relates it to the so-called "Circe" (Galleria Borghese, Rome), which she dates about 1516.
F. Mason Perkins. "Miscellanea." Rassegna d'arte 15 (1915), pp. 123–25, ill., as in the Ehrich collection.
Osvald Sirén. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. June 2, 1923, writes that he bought it in 1918 for $8,000 ($6,000 in cash plus a picture he had purchased for $2,000).
Adolfo Venturi. "Arte ferrarese del rinascimento." L'arte 28 (1925), pp. 108–9, fig. 19, identifies the subject as the Three Ages of Man.
Bryson Burroughs. "The Three Ages of Man by Dosso Dossi." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 21 (June 1926), pp. 152–54, ill., dates it a few years after the death of Giorgione .
Roberto Longhi. "Una favola del Dosso." Vita artistica 2 (May 1927), p. 94.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 9, part 3, La pittura del Cinquecento. Milan, 1928, pp. 966–67, 977, fig. 669, as "Paese con idillio campestre," and as "Paesaggio con scena amorosa"; erroneously as currently in the Ehrich collection and before that in the Sirén collection.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 175, as "Rustic Idyll".
Raimond van Marle. Iconographie de l'art profane au Moyen-Age et à la Renaissance. Vol. 2, Allégories et symboles. The Hague, 1932, p. 156, fig. 185.
Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 331, pl. 107 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 315, pl. 107].
Rezio Buscaroli. La pittura di paesaggio in Italia. Bologna, 1935, p. 215, as "Paese con idillio campestre"; dates it about 1530.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 151.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 148–49, ill.
Roberto Longhi. Ampliamenti nell'officina ferrarese. Florence, 1940, p. 31, dates it about 1520–25.
Victor Lasareff. "A Dosso Problem." Art in America 29 (July 1941), pp. 131, 135, fig. 4, as "Rustic Idyll"; calls it an early work.
Heinrich Bodmer. Correggio und die Malerei der Emilia. Vienna, 1942, p. XXXIX, pl. 100.
E[rika]. Tietze-Conrat. "Two Dosso Puzzles in Washington and in New York." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 33 (March 1948), pp. 129–36, fig. 1, calls it a fragment from a larger painting and although accepting the attribution to Dosso, does not exclude the possibility that it may be a work of Battista Dossi or Garofalo.
Creighton Gilbert. "On Subject and Not-Subject." Art Bulletin 34 (March 1952), p. 205, questions Tietze-Conrat's [see Ref. 1948] theory that it is a fragment.
Roberto Longhi. Opere complete di Roberto Longhi. Vol. 5, Officina ferrarese: 1934. repr. 1968. Florence, 1956, p. 159, reprints text of Ref. 1940.
Edoardo Arslan. "Una natività di Dosso Dossi." Commentari 8 (October–December 1957), p. 260, dates it before 1522.
Peter Dreyer. "Die Entwicklung des jungen Dosso (II)." Pantheon 22 (January–February 1964), pp. 365–66, 371, 374 n. 68, compares it with the Melissa [Circe] (Galleria Borghese, Rome) and the Saint Jerome (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), and agrees with Tietze-Conrat [see Ref. 1948] that it is a fragment.
Lionello Puppi. "Dosso al Buonconsiglio." Arte veneta 18 (1964), p. 33, rejects the idea that it is a fragment and compares it with the frescoes in the Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trent of 1531–32.
Maria Grazia Antonelli Trenti. "Notizie e precisazioni sul Dosso giovane." Arte antica e moderna 28 (October–December 1964), p. 410, dates it 1519 or slightly earlier.
Peter Dreyer. "Die Entwicklung des jungen Dosso (III)." Pantheon 23 (January–February 1965), p. 24.
Felton Gibbons and Lionello Puppi. "Dipinti inediti o poco noti di Dosso e Battista Dossi, con qualche nuova ipotesi." Arte antica e moderna 31–32 (July–December 1965), pp. 315–16, compare it with a fragmentary landscape in a private collection, Rome, and consider it a youthful work.
Lionello Puppi. Dosso Dossi. Milan, 1965, pp. 6–7, colorpl. XII [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1986], dates it about 1530.
Amalia Mezzetti. Il Dosso e Battista ferraresi. Milan, 1965, pp. 23, 71, 104, no. 126, fig. 16, dates it to the mid-1520s; relates it to scenes formerly in the "camerino d'alabastro" of Alfonso I d'Este in Ferrara; questions the idea that it is a fragment.
Felton Gibbons. "Two Allegories by Dosso for the Court of Ferrara." Art Bulletin 47 (December 1965), p. 495, notes the herd of goats in the painting, mentioning that the goat was known for its lascivious propensities.
Roberto Longhi. Opere complete di Roberto Longhi. Vol. 2, part 1, Saggi e ricerche: 1925–1928. Florence, 1967, p. 160 [repr. of Ref. Longhi 1927].
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 112, as "Three Ages of Man".
Felton Gibbons. Dosso and Battista Dossi, Court Painters at Ferrara. Princeton, 1968, pp. 11–12, 102, 110, 114, 123, 244–45, no. 130, fig. 37, rejects the idea that it is a fragment, but does not exclude the possibility that Battista Dossi may have intervened in the execution; dates it about 1521–23.
S. J. Freedberg. Painting in Italy: 1500 to 1600. Harmondsworth, England, 1971, p. 209, calls it "Idyll" and dates it about 1518–20.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 67, 487, 606.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 247, 249, fig. 442.
Joseph Hoffman. "Giorgione's 'Three Ages of Man'." Pantheon 42 (July/August/September 1984), p. 239, fig. 2, dates it about 1521–23.
Judith Dundas. "A Titian Enigma." Artibus et Historiae no. 12 (1985), pp. 39–40, fig. 4, dates it about 1521–23; compares it with Titian's "Three Ages of Man" (Duke of Sutherland, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh), of about 1514.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 11–12, pl. 63, date it to the early 1520s; state that parallels in Dosso's work exist for this type of composition and note that the top and bottom borders at least seem to be original, concluding that this picture is not a fragment of a larger work.
Peter Humfrey inThe Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1986, pp. 112–13, 128, no. 35, ill. (color) [Italian ed., "Nell'età di Correggio e dei Carracci: Pittura in Emilia dei secoli XVI e XVII," Bologna, 1986], supports a date of about 1518–20.
David Rosand inPlaces of Delight: The Pastoral Landscape. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection and National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1988, pp. 53, 258, no. 13, fig. 27 (color), dates it about 1520–25.
Alessandro Ballarin inLe siècle de Titien: L'âge d'or de la peinture à Venise. Exh. cat., Grand Palais. Paris, 1993, pp. 407–9, no. 78, ill. pp. 92 (color) and 407 [2nd ed., rev. and corr., 1993, pp. 459–62, no. 78, ill. pp. 92 (color) and 459], dates it about 1517–18; suggests that the landscape is inspired by the work of Altdorfer, especially his drawings and prints.
Christopher S. Wood. Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape. Chicago, 1993, p. 59.
Alessandro Ballarin. Dosso Dossi: la pittura a Ferrara negli anni del ducato di Alfonso I. Cittadella (Padua), 1994–95, vol. 1, pp. 69–70, 72, 310–11, no. 368, colorpl. CXVI; vol. 2, figs. 480, 482 (overall and detail).
Marzia Faietti inLa pittura in Emilia e in Romagna: Il Cinquecento. Ed. Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio. Vol. 1, Milan, 1995, pp. 32–33, dates it to the 1510s.
Vittoria Romani inLa pittura in Emilia e in Romagna: il Cinquecento. Ed. Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio. Vol. 2, Milan, 1996, p. 95.
Peter Humfrey inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 9, New York, 1996, p. 185, ill. p. 184, dates it 1518–20.
Andrea Bayer in Peter Humfrey and Mauro Lucco. Dosso Dossi: Court Painter in Renaissance Ferrara. Ed. Andrea Bayer. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, p. 45, fig. 29 (color detail) [Italian ed., "Dosso Dossi: pittore di corte a Ferrara nel Rinascimento," (Ferrara, 1998)].
Peter Humfrey. "Two Moments in Dosso's Career as a Landscape Painter." Dosso's Fate: Painting and Court Culture in Renaissance Italy. Ed. Luisa Ciammitti et al. Los Angeles, 1998, p. 207.
Andrea Bayer. "Dosso Dossi and the Role of Prints in North Italy." Dosso's Fate: Painting and Court Culture in Renaissance Italy. Ed. Luisa Ciammitti et al. Los Angeles, 1998, pp. 237–38, fig. 18.
Peter Humfrey and Mauro Lucco. Dosso Dossi: Court Painter in Renaissance Ferrara. Ed. Andrea Bayer. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 8, 22–23, 91, 110–13, 116, 130, 196, no. 10, ill. (color) [Italian ed., "Dosso Dossi: pittore di corte a Ferrara nel Rinascimento," (Ferrara, 1998)], state that the landscape is a reflection of Dosso's interest in Altdorfer's prints and suggest that the two lovers derive from the latter's woodcut "Lovers in a Forest"; point out that x–radiographs reveal the two men on the right to be additions over the finished foliage; remark that this painting is stylistically related to the Costabili polyptych (1513; Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara) and suggest a date of 1514, close to the execution of Titian's version of the same subject in Edinburgh; state that technical evidence shows that the left edge is definitely original and that the right edge and possibly the top have been cropped, "but what remains is most of the picture and is definitely not a fragment".
Andrea Bayer. "Une vie à la cour de Ferrare." Connaissance des arts no. 558 (February 1999), pp. 83–84, colorpl. 4, dates it about 1514–15.
Andrée Hayum. "The Courtly Art of Dosso Dossi." Art in America 87 (May 1999), p. 136, ill. p. 134 (color), dates it about 1514–15.
Peter Humfrey. "Afterthoughts on the Dosso Exhibition." Paragone 50 (September 1999), pp. 52, 61–62 n. 18.
Koenraad Brosens inPanorama op de Wereld: Her Landschap van Bosch tot Rubens. Exh. cat., Noordbrabants Museum. 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, 2001, p. 66, fig. 45, dates it 1518–20.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 49, 51, 53, fig. 33 (color), and color detail on cover, questions the interpretation of the subject as the three ages of man.
Mary Sprinson de Jesús inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 32–34, no. 2, ill. (color).
Giancarlo Fiorenza. Dosso Dossi: Paintings of Myth, Magic, and the Antique. University Park, Pa., 2008, pp. 7–8, 11, 170 n. 34, fig. 3 (color), dates it about 1515.
Peter Barnet and Wendy A. Stein inEarth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, ill. pp. 35, 51 (color).
Andrea Bayer inEarth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, p. 209, no. 7, ill. [Chinese ed., Hefei Shi, 2013, pp.18–19, no. 7, ill. (color)].
Andrea Bayer. "Collecting North Italian Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art." A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America. Ed. Inge Reist. University Park, Pa., 2015, pp. 88, 123 n. 13 (to chapter 7).
Master Paintings & Sculpture: Day Sale. Sotheby's, New York. January 29, 2016, p. 74, under no. 450.
The frame is from the Veneto outside of Venice and dates to about 1600 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). This bold reverse profile frame is made of pine and is water gilded and carved with strong form. The cabled flutes at the inner molding terminate in acanthus leaves at the corners. The swollen cushion falls back to bead and reel and lambs tongue ornament at the back edge. An early overgilding disguises the resizing cuts at the centers of the moldings on all four sides and attempts to recreate punchwork caliculi or scrollwork at the corners and centers.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2016; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]