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Elihu Vedder

(Illustration for Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám) Youth and Age
about 1883
chalk, pencil, ink, and watercolor
17 5/8 x 13 1/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase and gift from Elizabeth W. Henderson in memory of her husband Francis Tracy Henderson

The artist's concern with the passage of time appears in several of his drawings for the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The young woman in classical garb spins wool into yarn that flows to the lower half of the composition, where the older lady contemplates the thread as she winds it on a spindle. Vedder did not consider his drawings as illustrations of specific verses, but instead referred to them as "accompaniments." The verse and figures in this example share an interest in questioning life's meaning.