The Golden Age, Abraham Bloemaert
Abraham Bloemaert
The Golden Age
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Abraham Bloemaert

The Golden Age, 1603


Blatt
443 x 693 mm
Physical Description
Brown ink as well as brush in brown and brown-grey over black chalk, highlighted with white (gouache and white lead, oxidised), indented with a stylus, framing line with dark-brown ink over thinner framing line with light-brown ink, on ribbed laid paper
Inventory Number
2878
Object Number
2878 Z
Status
On display, Department of Prints and Drawings Exhibition Gallery

Texts

About the Work

During the early Baroque period the painter Abraham Bloemaert ranked among the leading artists in Amsterdam and then in Utrecht in particular. His most important graphic work is the vivid, large-format pen-and-ink and brush drawing 'The Golden Age'. Although we cannot be certain whether it counts as an artwork in its own right or whether it was created to be translated into a copperplate engraving, the composition nonetheless achieved considerable fame through its dissemination as a print and a number of painted copies. This may perhaps have played a role when Johann Friedrich Städel acquired the sheet from the French art trade in the late eighteenth century. According to the history of the world by the Greek poet Hesiod, which was taken up by other classical authors, mankind originally lived in a state of peace and happiness, in which they were nourished by the wealth of fruits of generous Nature and otherwise had no further needs. This "Golden Age" was then followed by other ages, each less glorious than the previous one, until we arrive at the present age, which is described as dark and immoral. From the Renaissance onwards, the vision of the paradisiacal "Golden Age" appealed to artists and observers as a projection of longing or as the prophecy of its return, for example at the beginning of the reign of a new ruler.

The wish for peace and happiness in the Netherlands, which was then embroiled in the Eighty Years' War with Spain in its struggle for independence, may explain the success of Bloemaert's composition. It shows lightly clad people of all ages distributed in casual groups across an unspoilt landscape, which is not cultivated and yet does not seem threatening in any way. A boy in the foreground is blowing soap bubbles in the air, a didactic reminder of the transitory nature of the state of happiness. These people, some of whom are busily gathering fruits, are surrounded by different animals, while Saturn - under whose sign the Golden Age is taking place - gazes down from a cloud. The posing figures show Bloemaert's origins in the age of Mannerism, and the emphasis he lays on the naturalistic portrayal of the animals and plants points forward to the realism of the Baroque period.

About the Acquisition

In March 1815, the Frankfurt businessman and banker Johann Friedrich Städel bequeathed his entire fortune and art collection to a foundation which was to be named after him: the 'Städelsches Kunstinstitut'. However, he also dedicated the foundation to the citizens of Frankfurt immaterially, wishing it to be an "adornment and of practical use" to Frankfurt's citizenry. He was thus the first ordinary citizen in the German-speaking region to found a public art museum: the present-day Städel Museum. When he died, his collection comprised 476 paintings, some 4,600 drawings, almost 10,000 printed graphics and valuable books.

Work Data

Basic Information

Title
The Golden Age
Draughtsman
Period Produced
School
Object Type
Physical Description
Brown ink as well as brush in brown and brown-grey over black chalk, highlighted with white (gouache and white lead, oxidised), indented with a stylus, framing line with dark-brown ink over thinner framing line with light-brown ink, on ribbed laid paper
Material
Technique
Geographic Reference
Production Reason
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Signiert und datiert unten rechts in der Kartusche (mit der Feder in Braun): Abram Bloemaert / f 1603
Captions Added Later
Verso bezeichnet unten am Rand mittig (mit der Feder in Braun): Nr. 98 / Abram Bloemaert; Stempel des Städelschen Kunstinstituts, Frankfurt am Main (Lugt 2356)
Watermark
  • Nicht vorhanden
Work Catalogues
  • Roethlisberger 1993.422.D9

Property and Acquisition

Institution
Administration
Collection
Creditline
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
© Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Foto: U. Edelmann

Work Content

Motifs and References

Genre
Main Motif
Persons Shown
Associated Persons and Institutions
Illustrated Passage
  • Ovid: Metamorphosen, 1. Buch, 89-112

Iconclass

Primary
  • 91E21 the golden age, 'Aetas aurea'; men live happily, gathering fruits under the reign of Saturn
  • 35 pastorals, Arcadian scenes
  • 31A14 human figure of ideal proportions, e.g. academic nude
  • 91B1117 specific aspects of Saturn; Saturn as patron
Secondary
  • 11R511 (children or putti) blowing bubbles, 'Homo Bulla' ~ scene symbolizing 'Vanitas'
  • 43C94 group dancing
  • 34F man and (wild) animal
  • 25HH151 deciduous forest - HH - ideal landscapes
  • 25G21 fruits

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Last import

02.07.2020