Are you adolescent or middle-aged? Are you on life’s upwardly mobile journey towards the peak years (whatever these may be) or are you spiraling downwards in terminal decline?
The stages of life — from childhood to death — may be the simplistic invention of ancient scholars who sought a way to classify and explain the human condition, but over hundreds of years authors and artists have continued to be drawn to the subject. Our contemporary demographers and market researchers are just the latest in a long line of those who seek to explain, and now monetize, particular groups by age.
So, if you’re fascinated by this somewhat arbitrary chronological classification system the Public Domain Review has a treat. They’ve assembled a fine collection of images from the last five hundred years that depict the different ages of man and woman.
A common representation is to show ages ascending a series of steps from infancy to a peak and then descending towards old-age, senility and death. The image above is a particularly wonderful example of the genre and while the ages are noted in French the categories are not difficult to decipher:
20 years: “Jeunesse”
40 years: “Age de discretion”
50 years: “Age de Maturité”
90 years: “Age de decrépitude”
Image: “Le cours de la vie de l’homme dans ses différents âges”. Early 19th-century print showing stages of life at ten year intervals from 10-90 years as ascending and then descending steps. Courtesy: Wikipedia. Public Domain.