Infancy, one of four high-relief carvings showing the Four Ages of Man on the font of St Mary's Church, Studley Royal, Yorkshire. This is mentioned under "FITTINGS by Burges" and as having been "executed by Nicholls" in Peter Leach and Nikolaus Pevsner's account of the church (724). 1874-75. Gilded bronze on purple Tennessee marble. It is a touching representation of a mother guiding her little boy's first steps, and drawing him towards her. In the background is the word "Infantia."

Left: Infancy in situ. Right: Youth in situ.. The relief panels glow against the deep colour of the marble, which is in turn relieved by the gilded leaf-pattern. The youth, shown against the word "Adolescentia," is holding a branch in leaf, and studying some smaller item in his other hand.

Left: Manhood in situ. Right: Old age in situ. Manhood, against the word, "Virilitas," is represented by a serious-looking warrior in chain-mail. The representation of the lion on his shield suggests strength and endurance. He holds the hilt of a sword, though there is no blade here. The old man, with his copious beard, is poring over his books — no doubt, the Scriptures or commentaries on them. He is shown against the word "Senectas."

Manhood on St Mary's font. The young warrior is in the prime of life. He looks very serious — ready to "fight the good fight." Burges would use the idea of the Ages of Man again in Christ the Consoler, Skelton (see Leach 21).

Related Material

First and last Photographs by Robert Freidus. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print document. All four photographs in the middle © Colin Hinson, of the Genuki: Yorkshire Genealogy website, who has kindly contributed them in large resolution. They should not be reused without his permission. Formatting by the author.


Leach, Peter. St Mary's Church, Studley Royal. (Dept. of the Environment Official Handbook.) London: HMSO, 1981.

Leach, Peter, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Yorkshire West Riding, Leeds, Bradford and the North. The Buildings of England series. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Last modified 4 December 2011