The Twelve Ages of Man: The Third Three Ages of Man (36-54), or Autumn

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. 175 x W. 286 inches (444.5 x 726.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of The Hearst Foundation in memory of William Randolph Hearst, 1953
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The third of a set of four tapestries illustrating the life of man as divided into twelve periods of six years. Bacchus, in the center, stands for the autumn of life; the symbols and occupations of three months, July, August, and September, represent the years from thirty-six to fifty-four. The stories show the centaur Chiron teaching medicine to the young Aesculapius; Joseph directing the gathering of the harvest in anticipation of the lean years to come; and Hercules gathering the golden apples of the Hesperides, the last of his twelve labors.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: (border, upper left) Ut Leo desiccat sensim retrogradus herbas, / Sic sensim vives corporis ipsa dies.
    [As the Lion, retrograding, gradually dries the grass, so does time itself gradually dry up bodily strength.]

    (upper left) "Ethesias" [NE winds], "Auster" [S wind]

    (center, left) Herbipotes Chiro, squaletes pellere morbus / Natus Apollineus quaqueat arte docet.
    [Chiron, skilled in herbs, teaches the art by which the son of Apollo can drive out squalid diseases.]

    (border, upper center) Coligit [for colligit] Augustus flavas sub virginie fruges, /
    Colligit in seniu vir studiosus opes.
    [August gathers golden fruits under the Virgin; the diligent man gathers riches for his old age.]

    (center) Curat Josephus famis adventura pericla / Ut jam prelecta pellere messe queat.
    [Joseph sees to it that he may be able to rout the coming perils of famile with already selected crops.]

    (border, lower center) Vinifer Autunus maturis influit uvis. / Vnifer [for Vinifer] huic Iachus presidet Ismarius.
    [Autumn, the wine-bringer, abounds in ripe grapes; Ismarian Bacchus, the wine-bringer, presides over it.]

    (border, upper right) Condit vina cadis expressis Libra racemis, / Ut gravis etatem cautius era premit.
    [The Scales store wine in jars after the grapes have been crushed, as a man burdened with years more carefully hoards his money.]

    (upper right) "Corus" [NW wind], "Libs" [SW wind]

    (center, right) Herculeo finem victo serpente labori / Carpta dat Hesperii splendida cura chori.
    [The serpent having been vanquished, the splendid charge of the Hesperian chorus is plucked, and puts an end to the labors of Hercules.]

  • Provenance

    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 (1933–51) ; [ Saks Fifth Avenue with Gimbel Bros./Hammer Galleries, 1941 ] ; William Randolph Hearst Foundation (until 1953; to MMA)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History