The Four Ages of Man

This is probably the 'Quatre ages de l'homme' by Valentin mentioned in the inventory of Michel Particelli, Seigneur d'Hémery, Paris, 1650. The picture was certainly in the celebrated collection of the Dukes of Orléans during most of the 18th century.

Infancy (centre foreground) holds an empty bird trap, perhaps symbolising hope; Youth (left) plays a lute, probably symbolising amorous desire; Manhood (right), in armour, wears a victor's laurel wreath and holds a plan of fortifications; Age (centre background) is associated with a pile of coins, symbol of avarice. The glass he holds may be symbolic of the fragility of life.

Key facts

Artist dates
1591 - 1632
Full title
The Four Ages of Man
Date made
about 1629
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
96.5 x 134 cm
Acquisition credit
Presented by the 2nd Viscount Bearsted through the Art Fund, 1938
Inventory number
Location in Gallery