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Tapestry - Manhood from The Life of Man
  • Manhood from The Life of Man
    Squilli, Benedetto di Michele
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Manhood from The Life of Man

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)

  • Date:

    1565 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Squilli, Benedetto di Michele (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woven wool and silk

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case SCREEN1, shelf WW

A 14-piece set of tapestries depicting the Life of Man were completed at the workshop of Benedetto Squilli in 1565 for Palazzo Vecchio, of which only four panels survive. The panel in the Victoria and Albert Museum depicts Man midway in his pilgrimage of life, ascending the mountain of salvation in the company of two female figures, Faith and Innocence, together with the winged child personifying Divine Love. Two other women, Religion and Piety, await them half-way up the mountain. The set of tapestries linked the Ages of Man with the Pilgrimage of Life. Youth is given the choice between the World, the Flesh and the Devil and the Path of Virtue.

Physical description

Tapestry of woven wool and silk, depicting a man midway in his pilgrimage of life. Dressed in a short tunic he is seen from the back, ascending the mountain of salvation in the company of two female figure and a winged child. To the right of the man walks the small winged child and one of the women, the latter probably a personification of Faith accompanied by Divine Love. The woman to the left carries a golden bowl from which two wings protrude; she is a personification of Innocence, holding a symbol of the Life of Man.There is a rocky landscape with classical ruins. Two other women, Religion and Piety, await them half-way up the mountain. The border contains thick strapwork and human figures.

Place of Origin

Florence (made)


1565 (made)


Squilli, Benedetto di Michele (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Woven wool and silk


Weight: 24.6 kg from an estimate of 1.2kg per square metre, Height: 467 cm, Width: 440 cm

Object history note

In the records of the Medici tapestry workshops an entry of 21 October 1560 notes that 'Giovanni della Strada Fiammingo' was credited with the cartoons of the Life of Man, made to the instructions and designs of Giorgio Vasari and woven as tapestries by Squilli, probably for refurbishment of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence for Duke Cosimo I Medici; they were to hang in the Duke's winter dining room. The initial designs were drawn by Giorgio Vasari in 1559, the working cartoons were painted by Giovanni Stradanus and the tapestries were woven by the Florentine workshop of Benedetto Squilli from 1562 onwards - completed in 1565 (Campbell, p.503). Of fourteen tapestries, only four surviving tapestries can be identified: one in the V&A Museum; one in the Deposito del Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa; one in the Mobilier National, Paris and the fourth in Musée National de la Reniassance, Ecouen.

Historical significance: Tapestry production in Italy during 1520 to1560 saw the establishment of new workshops in the hope that Italian products might be cheaper than Netherlandish import; there was a vision of a native industry that might eventually compete with the workshops of Brussels. However, most Italian ateliers were short-lived and their distance from the main Netherlandish centres and their use of designs made by artists who worked in the mainstream of Italian style, rather than in the Netherlandish tradition, guaranteed that their products were among the most innovative of the periods. Due to the extensive use of metallic oxides in their dyes, which is especially destructive to wools and silks, the tapestries were more prone to deterioration than their Netherlandish counterparts.
This tapestry is a fine example of the Mannerist style of palace decoration.

Historical context note

The figures appear also in a series of six prints of the Life of Man after Stradanus engraved by Furnius in 1570. The engravings link the Ages of Man with the Pilgrimage of Life, Youth is given the choice between the World, the Flesh and the Devil and the Path of Virtue. Manhood is assisted by the four Cardinal Virtues. These most likely reflect the design of the eight lost tapestries linked to humanistic themes given a specifically Christian context.

Descriptive line

Tapestry of woven wool and silk, 'Manhood from The Life of Man', possibly designed by Benedetto di Michele Squilli, Florence, 1565.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wingfield Digby, G F & Hefford, W., The tapestry collection: medieval and renaissance (London: H.M.S.O., 1980), pp.70-71, pl. 96
Campbell, Thomas P., Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2002), p. 503
King, Donald, Collected Textile Studies, ed. A. Muthesius and M. King (London: The Pindar Press, 2005), pp. 268-307, fig. 13
Baroni Vannucci, Alessandra. Jan Van Der Straet detto Giovanni Stradano: flandrus pictor et inventor. Rome and Milan: Jandi Sapi Editori, 1997. ISBN 8871420381
Gaeta Bertelà, G. Entry 'L'età virile dell'uomo', in Firenze e la Toscana dei Medici nell'Europa del Cinquecento. Palazzo Vecchio: committenza e collezionismo medicei [exhibition catalogue]. Milan: Electa / Florence: Centro Di Edizioni Alinari Scala, 1980.


Wool; Silk


Tapestry weave

Subjects depicted

Man; Pilgrimage


Tapestry; Textiles; Wall coverings; Images Online


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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