Arts & Culture

The Golden Age

Benjamin West1776

Tate Britain
Tate Britain

Although the young mother seems to be modelled on the artist's wife, this is not a West family portrait, but an allegorical scene. The Golden Age of the title, given in an engraving of the picture published in 1778, is the state of Infancy. The peacefully sleeping child knows nothing of the worries and poverty of its mother, indicated by the ragged hem of her dress and bare feet, or of the hard labour of the father, seen in the distance ploughing with a team of oxen. Neither is it aware of the cares and feebleness of old age, represented by the grandparents trying to catch the warmth of the sun in the doorway.

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