Titian (Tiziano Veccellio)

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Three Ages of Man

Titian (Tiziano Veccellio)

Last Updated: Feb-06-2001
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas


This painting represents the artist’s conception of the life cycle in allegorical terms. Childhood, manhood synonymous with earthly love, and old age approaching death are drawn realistically as each figure reflects Titian’s attitudes toward each stage of earthly existence. A plump angel floats ethereally over two sleeping babies, protecting them, but also mirroring their purity.

To the left, he paints the joys [and exhaustion] of youth, the firmly muscled, mature male, perhaps spent from a sexual encounter, being tantalized by a pubescent girl dressed in provocative style to further endeavors. She holds two flutes and by chance is urging him on with her piped, "Siren’s song."

In the background, at the end of his days, a bearded old, stooped man gazes at two skulls, either in terror or in wonder. The exquisite detailed scenery reflects nature in her glory and decline--lofty, weightless clouds float through an azure sky. Parched trees in the foreground reflect the arid remnants of summer landscapes, as the skulls reflect those of man.

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