The Contrast: Youth and Age thumbnail 1
The Contrast: Youth and Age thumbnail 2
Not currently on display at the V&A

The Contrast: Youth and Age

Oil Painting
1839 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The contrasts between youth and age, innocence and experience, were staple subjects for nineteenth-century painters as well as writers. It is interesting to note that this picture was exhibited in the same year as Dickens first introduced Little Nell and her grandfather to the reading public. The artist appended lines of verse, unattributed, to the title in the exhibition catalogue:
Youth in its dawn, daring the thorough fare
Of life with fearless foot and roving eye,
Age in its humble lustre, breathing prayer
Upon the threshold of eternity!
Death with the accompanying expectation of eternal life is suggested by the tombstone, the spade and the freshly dug grave in the churchyard. The old countryman pauses at the church door while his grand-daughter looks at him no doubt wondering why he has raised his hat in tribute. The figures were painted from life, the child being the artist's young cousin, and the elderly man the local sexton of the village in which Horsley was staying in the summer of 1839.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on panel
Brief Description
Oil painting entitled 'The Contrast: Youth and Age' by John Callcott Horsley. Great Britain, 1839.
Physical Description
The contrasts between youth and age, innocence and experience, were staple subjects for nineteenth-century painters as well as writers. It is interesting to note that this picture was exhibited in the same year as Dickens first introduced Little Nell and her grandfather to the reading public. The artist appended lines of verse, unattributed, to the title in the exhibition catalogue:

Youth in its dawn, daring the thorough fare

Of life with fearless foot and roving eye,

Age in its humble lustre, breathing prayer

Upon the threshold of eternity!

Death with the accompanying expectation of eternal life is suggested by the tombstone, the spade and the freshly dug grave in the churchyard. The old countryman pauses at the church door while his grand-daughter looks at him no doubt wondering why he has raised his hat in tribute. The figures were painted from life, the child being the artist's young cousin, and the elderly man the local sexton of the village in which Horsley was staying in the summer of 1839.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 45.7cm
  • Estimate width: 40.6cm
  • Framed height: 60cm
  • Framed width: 55cm
Dimensions taken from Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
'J C H/1839' (Signed and dated by the artist on tombstone at left)
Credit line
Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857
Object history
Given by John Sheepshanks,1 857
Subjects depicted
Bibliographic Reference
Parkinson, R., Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, London: HMSO, 1990, p. 128
Collection
Accession Number
FA.81[O]

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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