Cornelis van Haarlem | The Choice Between Young and Old, 1590

In the 1580s, Cornelis van Haarlem, together with the poet, painter and art theorist, Karel van Mander, and the painter and engraver, Hendrick Goltzius, was one of the principal exponents of the Mannerist style which enjoyed a brief but intense flowering in Haarlem. By the mid 1590s, however, when The choice between young and old was painted, van Haarlem's work was shifting towards a more temperate approach, in response to Goltzius’s own rejection of Mannerism. The violent contortions and exaggeratedly muscular nudes which typified his earlier style, gave way in favor of more restful poses and figure types, more akin to classical ideals of proportion and harmony.