A pupil of Adriaen van der Werff in Rotterdam, Hendrik van Limborch returned to The Hague in 1702, where he remained for the rest of his life. He worked primarily as a portraitist, which provided his main source of income, and worked only intermittently on history paintings.
The present painting is one of a series of four works by the artist, which also includes Diana and Actaeon, The Judgement of Paris, and Apollo and the Muses (or Parnassus). All four were painted on panel, consisting of a single piece of wood, and measuring 24 x 34 duim. The Judgement of Paris and Parnassus are now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (nos. 253 and 256, respectively), while the Diana and Actaeon has not been found.
The Golden Age is one of the Ages of the World - Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron - described in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Of these, the first was an earthly paradise, but each successive age brought increasing misery for mankind. Unusually, the artist recorded his paintings in a notebook, which lists two pictures representing The Golden Age, one of which, painted in 1731-32, is explicitly described as the companion of a Parnassus (G. Jansen, 'Notitie der dagelijxe schilderoeffening', Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, XXXXV, 1997, no. 1, pp. 26-67). This is the only mythological subject which it is certain he painted twice; his other depiction of it, on canvas, is in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. 2446.
We are grateful to Mr. Willem van de Watering for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.