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The Voyage of Life, Old Age, Oil by Thomas Cole (1801-1848, United Kingdom)

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The Voyage of Life, Old Age

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The Voyage of Life series, painted by Thomas Cole in 1840, is a series of paintings that represent an allegory of the four stages of human life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. The paintings follow a voyager who travels in a boat on a river through the mid-19th century American wilderness. In each painting, accompanied by a guardian angel, the voyager rides the boat on the River of Life. The landscape, corresponding to the seasons of the year, plays a major role in telling the story. The final painting, Old Age, is an image of death. The man has grown old; he has survived the trials of life. The waters have calmed; the river flows into the waters of eternity. The figurehead and hourglass are missing from the battered boat; the withered old voyager has reached the end of earthly time. In the distance, angels are descending from heaven, while the guardian angel hovers close, gesturing toward the others. The man is once again joyous with the knowledge that faith has sustained him through life. The landscape is practically gone, just a few rough rocks represent the edge of the earthly world, and dark water stretches onward. Cole describes the scene: “The chains of corporeal existence are falling away; and already the mind has glimpses of Immortal Life.“ This painting was used as the cover of the album Nightfall by Swedish doom metal band Candlemass.
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Thomas Cole

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