TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

The Three Ages of Man

c. 1512
Oil on canvas, 90 x 152 cm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

The young Titian was influenced by Giorgione, it is therefore not surprising that this work has been the subject of scholarly debate concerning its attribution to either one of the two artists.

The subject is not entirely clear but appears to have cyclical overtones. The sleeping children are protected from injury or death from the tottering dead tree stump by Cupid, who then fuels their passion as young adults but cannot prevent old age and death. The juxtaposition of the sage with two skulls with the dead tree and protecting cupid suggests a pattern of rebirth.