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William Mulready RA, A preparatory drawing for 'The Seven Ages of Man'
William Mulready RA, A preparatory drawing for 'The Seven Ages of Man'

A preparatory drawing for 'The Seven Ages of Man', ca. 1835

William Mulready RA (1786 - 1863)

RA Collection: Art

This drawing is for The Seven Ages of Man (1835-38, Victoria and Albert Museum), a painting based on the famous soliloquy in William Shakespeare's As You Like It (Act II, Scene VII). According to Mulready's Account Book (V&A) he was working on both the painted and engraved versions of this scene concurrently, which might explain why the composition is reversed in this drawing.

In Mulready's painting all seven ages are represented - the infant can be seen on the far left, the school boy in the centre with the middle-aged man, the lover on the far right, the soldier on the lower left, and both the old and very old men on the lower right. This drawing focuses on the central group of figures, which is shown in reverse, and does not include any of the medieval setting which can be seen in the background of the painting. The composition of the group is very similar to that of the painting but there are differences in the details. Also, several smaller figures which feature on the upper left of the painting, as well as the dogs by the wheelchair, are omitted. In certain details, such as the old man's spectacles and the middle-aged man's neatly trimmed beard, this drawing appears to be closer to the text than the painting suggesting that it might be an early preparatory work.

This drawing may be the same as No. 204 in the catalogue of the Mulready exhibition at the South Kensington Museum (V&A) in 1864. The entry reads 'Outline of the picture of "The Seven Ages" No. 78, which was painted in 1837. Two outlines of "The Challenge", "Peveril of the Peak". Illustration of some unknown work.'

This work comes from one of sixteen volumes of Royal Academy Annual Exhibition catalogues that were collected and extra-illustrated by the lawyer and antiquarian Edward Basil Jupp F.S.A. (1812 - 1877). The catalogues span the period from the first annual exhibition in 1769 up to 1875. Jupp added drawings, prints, letters and autographs by, or referring to, Academicians and other exhibitors at the Academy's annual exhibition.

E.B. Jupp was a solicitor who married Eliza Kay, daughter of the architect William Porden Kay. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a clerk of the Carpenters' Company, of which he published a history. Jupp amassed a large collection of paintings by British and Dutch artists, drawings, prints, books and porcelain most of which was sold after his death, at Christie's in February 1878.

Many of the drawings in Jupp's Royal Academy extra-illustrated volumes were bought from art sales during the 1860s. He was also acquainted with a number of contemporary artists and several drawings in the later volumes (along with many of the letters and autographs) were sent from the artists themselves.

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Object details

A preparatory drawing for 'The Seven Ages of Man'
William Mulready RA (1786 - 1863)
ca. 1835
Object type
Pencil and pen and ink on tracing paper

112 mm x 144 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Leverhulme Trust 1936
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