The journey of life (triptych) 1905

Triptych: Birth, Farewell, Death. Image description: see below.

JQAW# G_1905_010
Oil on canvas 118 x 171 cm (L: 105 x 57, M: 118 x 57, R: 105 x 57 cm)
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams Volendam 905
Galeria Nationale de l'Arte Rome
Image: wikimedia commons (edited) and private collection

TriptychColor image

>>>Left wing: domestic scene in front of a large fireplace decorated with pewter plates, a sweeping broom leaning on the right. In the center stands a young mother in Volendam costume holding a baby wrapped in a red cloth. To the left, sitting in a chair, is the grandmother (also in traditional costume) holding a cradle (partly not visible) with both hands. In front of her a jar with brass lid and carrying handle. In the right background of the picture an armchair and an open door with curtain to a sleeping chamber, in which a man is resting in bed.
>>>Middle part (raised, with signature): harbor scene. On a wooden mooring pier stand an old man in fisherman's costume leaning on a stick, and a young mother with her little daughter, both in Volendam costume. They are looking at a young man in a fisherman's costume, who is just leaving the quay with a boat. In the background a semicircular harbor basin with tile-roofed houses and anchored sailing ships under a cloudy sky.
>>>Right wing: Village scene. A group of men in fishermen's costumes carry a dead man who has died in an accident into a fenced garden. The legs of the dead man are held by a young fisherman. Their posture is depressed, their heads lowered. An old, white-haired man and a little girl (probably the same ones from the middle part) look in dismay at the corpse together with other villagers. In the foreground a green garden fence, in the background a house with two windows, one of which is brightly lit.

The triptych, entitled "We must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations." (Acts 14:22) first exhibited in Vienna in 1905, combines three Dutch genre scenes into a programmatic triptych, with the central section having a slightly taller format. The triptych format experienced a brief renaissance after 1900, and Adams probably took advantage of it to bring a large-scale major work to Vienna from Volendam and exhibit it at the Künsterhaus (EL 49 1905/06 #1416). He was awarded the large gold state medal for the painting. After Vienna, the painting was also exhibited in Munich (1905), London (1906), and at the Venice Biennale (1907), where it was purchased for the Galeria Nationale de l'Arte in Rome (exhibited there as "il viaggo de la vita"). Instead of the (overly) long original title, the term "The journey of life" has become accepted for the triptych. To better visualize the pictorial details of the dark colors of the original, a contemporary (rare) B&W reproduction owned by the artist's great-grandson is also presented.

The triptych The Journey of Life was widely and praisingly described in the press as one of Adams' major works, often exhibited and awarded. It is still today a masterpiece of the artist of his Volendam creative period and also because of the existential program encourages deeper contemplation and reflection, which is probably the noblest task of art.


1905 Künstlerhaus Vienna (EL 49 1905/06 #1416). Large gold state medal.
1905 Munich.
1906 London.
1907 Venice Biennale (purchase for National Gallery of Rome).


APH, catalog raisonné JQA 1995, pp. 60-62, cat.#29,30,31,32, fig.#17, 18, 19,20.


1907 Purchase from the artist for Galeria Nationale de l'Arte Rome.