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Oil painting - The Contrast: Youth and Age
  • The Contrast: Youth and Age
    John Callcott Horsley, born 1817 - died 1903
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The Contrast: Youth and Age

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1839 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    John Callcott Horsley, born 1817 - died 1903 (painters (artists))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1839 (painted)


John Callcott Horsley, born 1817 - died 1903 (painters (artists))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on panel

Marks and inscriptions

'J C H/1839'
Signed and dated by the artist on tombstone at left


Height: 45.7 cm estimate, Width: 40.6 cm estimate, Height: 60 cm framed, Width: 55 cm framed, :

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks,1 857

Descriptive line

Oil painting entitled 'The Contrast: Youth and Age' by John Callcott Horsley. Great Britain, 1839.

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

Parkinson, R., Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, London: HMSO, 1990, p. 128


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Church; Tombstone; Tools, Implements




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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