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The Voyage of Life - Manhood - Antique Religious Art Print - Angels - Curiosities and Oddities - Weird & Wonderful - Old Maps and Prints
"The Voyage of Life - Manhood" 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.
In this third painting, Manhood, the youth has grown into an adult and now faces the trials of life. The boat is damaged and the tiller is gone. The river has become a terrible rush of white water with menacing rocks, dangerous whirlpools, and surging currents. The warm sunlight of youth has been clouded over with dark and stormy skies and torrential rains. The trees have become wind-beaten, gnarled, leafless trunks. The fresh grass is gone, replaced by hard and unforgiving rock.
In the boat, the man no longer displays confidence or even control. The angel appears high in the sky, still watching over the man, who does not see the angel. Man must rely on his faith that the angel is there to help him. Cole states, "Trouble is characteristic of the period of Manhood. In childhood, there is no care: in youth, no despairing thought. It is only when experience has taught us the realities of the world, that we lift from our eyes the golden veil of early life; that we feel deep and abiding sorrow: and in the Picture, the gloomy, eclipse-like tone, the conflicting elements, the trees riven by tempest, are the allegory; and the Ocean, dimly seen, figures the end of life, which the Voyager is now approaching.
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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Order delays during Covid-19
I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who’s been showing support to our business in this challenging time, as the entire world is adapting to a new normal. Fulfillment and shipping will take longer, but rest assured your order will reach you.
I know this isn’t what you guys are used to, so I’m grateful for your patience as you continue coming back to our brand and enjoying our products. Some good news is, we have more time to focus on some exciting new designs we previously didn’t have time for. Stay tuned for more additions to our collection!
Thank you all again, and most importantly - stay safe.