Senex amans  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Ill-Matched Lovers

A senex amans (from Latin: "aged lover", "amorous old man") is a stock character of classical Greek and Roman comedy, medieval literature (e.g., fabliau) and drama. It is an old jealous man married to a young woman and thus often an object of mockery. He is variously ugly, impotent, puritanical, and foolish to be cuckolded by a young and handsome man. Often the term "senex amans" is applied to the very motif involving the three.

The classic example of a senex amans is Januarie (January) in the Merchant's Tale (part of the Canterbury Tales). He is nigh on 60 (a worthy age for then) and he marries a young girl (under 20). It is also found in The Miller's Tale and in all AT 1423 type stories.

The senex amans is not always a one-dimensional figure presented for derision. The morality within the tale itself is somewhat ambiguous, with the corrosive irony directed at January coupled with a more generalised sympathy and understanding.

Visual art

Visually the trope is represented in prints and paintings by such artists as Hans Sebald Beham, Grien and Matsys.

"The old man approaches the young woman, and while she appears to be allowing him to embrace her, her hand is shrewdly reaching out for his purse. This satirical subject is referred to as "the ill-matched couple" and was very popular in the 16th century. (Source: The Digital Gallery. 1999-2006) [1]

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Senex amans" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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