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northern european school
circa 1600

Allegory of Youth and Old Age. Oil on panel. 38 x 50 cm.

 Although Ferdinando Arisi recently attributed this fascinating painting to Bartolomeo Passarotti, the technique employed and the use of a high-quality oak panel would indicate that it is very probably the work of an artist from northern Europe. Hans von Aachen and other artists active at the court of Rudolph II in Prague have been cited as stylistic references.

Nonetheless, there are some remarkable stylistic resemblances between the frightening head of the old woman on the painting and similar depictions by Passarotti in pen and brown ink (cf., for example, Corinna Höper, Bartolomeo Passarotti (1529–1592), Worms 1987, vol 2, p. 167, no. Z 236, fig. 40 a). As Arisi has suggested, the double portrait should be interpreted as a vanitas motif, serving as a reminder of the transience of youth and beauty, a theme very popular in 16th and 17th century northern European painting.