About this artwork
Visitors to Germany during the 17th century often commented on the amount of drinking that characterized entertainment and hospitality there, exemplified by the outsize drinking glasses that Germans favored. Honored guests were greeted with Willkommen: sizable vessels whose entire contents visitors were expected to down. The most common form of Wilkommen were Humpen: tall, cylindrical beakers often ornamented with narrative or symbolic motifs.
Enameled glass, decorated by painting and firing colored powders onto the surface, was common in German countries during this period. Decorations included coats of arms and symbols of guild affiliations; biblical tales; and illustrations of folk wisdom, hunting, and politics. This Humpen represents a particularly favored theme, the Ages of Man, but in contrast to Shakespeare’s contemporary description of the Seven Ages allotted to man in As You Like It, it optimistically depicts a hundred-year span in ten stages. The child playing with a hoop becomes the twenty-year old dandy, who in turn matures into the warlike thirty-year-old. A symbolic animal accompanies each decade of life; so a lion prowls beside the forty-year-old man in his prime. This amusing depiction of life’s cycle ends with the skeletal form of Death dragging the tottering hundred-year-old off the world stage, tempering the hilarity of drink with a reminder of the impermanence of life.
- Beaker (Humpen) with the Ages of Man
- Colorless glass and enamel
- No mark
- H. 31.1 cm (12 1/4 in.)
- Gift of Julius and Augusta Rosenwald