An Elderly Couple

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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An elderly couple stare past each other – and us – in this astonishing study of old age. Although prosperously dressed, the pair seem disappointed: their mouths are turned resolutely down, their eyes dull and their jowls sagging. Although they overlap, each figure makes a self-contained triangle; their isolation is in vivid contrast to the classical lovers embracing in the cameo in the man’s hat. The only indication of who they are is their clothing, which suggest a North Netherlandish origin and a date in the 1510s, although given their age they may not have dressed in the latest fashions. Unusually, the painting is on parchment, perhaps to make it easier to transport. It might not have been painted for the sitters, but for some distant friend or relative.

The National Gallery, London



An Elderly Couple


about 1520


Oil on parchment laid down on canvas


H 46 x W 66.9 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1900

Work type



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