Beaker (Humpen) with the Ages of Man

A work made of colorless glass and enamel.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of colorless glass and enamel.

Date:

c. 1600

Artist:

Bohemian or German

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.

On View

European Decorative Art, Gallery 238

Title

Beaker (Humpen) with the Ages of Man

Origin

Bohemia

Date

1595–1605

Medium

Colorless glass and enamel

Inscriptions

No mark

Dimensions

H. 31.1 cm (12 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Julius and Augusta Rosenwald

Reference Number

1927.1012

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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