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The Voyage of Life - Youth - Antique Religious Art Print - Angels - Curiosities and Oddities - Weird & Wonderful - Old Maps and Prints
"The Voyage of Life - Old Age" engraved by James D. Smillie, c. 1856.
The Voyage of Life, painted by Thomas Cole in 1842, is a series of paintings that represent an allegory of the four stages of human life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. The paintings follow a voyager who travels in a boat on a river through the mid-19th-century American wilderness. In each painting, accompanied by a guardian angel, the voyager rides the boat on the River of Life. The landscape, corresponding to the seasons of the year, plays a major role in telling the story. In each picture, the boat's direction of travel is reversed from the previous picture. In childhood, the infant glides from a dark cave into a rich, green landscape. As a youth, the boy takes control of the boat and aims for a shining castle in the sky. In manhood, the adult relies on prayer and religious faith to sustain him through rough waters and a threatening landscape. Finally, the man becomes old and the angel guides him to heaven across the waters of eternity.
This second painting, Youth, shows the same rich landscape, but here the view widens as does the voyager's experience. Now the youth grabs the tiller firmly as the angel watches and waves from the shore, allowing him to take control. The boy's enthusiasm and energy is evident in his forward-thrusting pose and billowing clothes. In the distance, a ghostly castle hovers in the sky, a white and shimmering beacon that represents the ambitions and dreams of man.
To the youth, the calm river seems to lead straight to the castle, but at the far right of the painting one can just glimpse the river as it becomes rough, choppy, and full of rocks. Cole comments on the landscape and the youth's ambitions: "The scenery of the picture—its clear stream, its lofty trees, its towering mountains, its unbounded distance, and transparent atmosphere—figure forth the romantic beauty of youthful imaginings, when the mind elevates the Mean and Common into the Magnificent, before experience teaches what is the Real."
After Cole's unexpected death in February of 1848, the reputation of The Voyage of Life series increased dramatically, and his estate was able to sell it to the American Art-Union a few months after the artist's passing. This organization promoted American art by buying works and distributing them to its members via a lottery. Art-Union members also received engraved reproductions of significant American paintings. Youth—always the most popular of the four paintings—was selected as an offering for a print edition of 20,000. The Engraving Committee engaged James Smillie, "believing him to be superior to any other artist in the country in this department." The fact that they agreed to pay Smillie an astonishing $2500 to reproduce Cole's painting underscores how important this commission was in promoting their organization. Eventually, Smillie made prints of the other three pictures as well, and it was primarily these engraved images that made The Voyage of Life famous throughout America.
This image has been digitally retouched and repaired as necessary, while leaving the foxing, wear, and creases that lend to the intrigue of these old works. This giclee quality art is printed on heavyweight matte archival / acid-free museum quality stock with lightfast inks rated 100+ years. No watermark will appear on your print. The artwork is printed with a surrounding white margin (included in print size) to aid in framing/matting the print. Your purchase will ship priority mail (US) in a protective kraft tube made from 70-100% post-consumer recycled content and up to 30% secondary recycled content.
Given the nature of vintage artwork created before the standardization of print and frame sizes, this item may not conform exactly to the dimensions you choose. To allow for the odd sizing of these images they are printed approximately 2 inches smaller than the paper they are on. This way you receive a standard size, with a white surrounding border that allows for easy framing, with or without a matte.
12" x 16"
16" x 20" [pictured]
18" x 24"
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