From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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The Renaissance is also the time of mercantilism, a precursor of the brutal capitalism common to the Western world before the time of the socialist revolutions. Everything is for sale, the slave trade thrives on a large scale. Women also are for sale, not necessarily as prostitutes or slave, but figuratively: a deliberate marriage gives a woman security and the man the illusion of eternal conjugal happiness. This cynical view of things - the big age difference in marriages where the woman is considerably younger than the husband suggests that she marries because of the convenience and financial gain - is depicted in the Renaissance in prints and paintings. Each of these paintings focuses on the beginning of such a relationship: the man 'getting friendly' with the woman and the woman who quite literally reaches with her hands in his purse. We see the old fool - who is called senex amans in art jargon - and the frail maiden in versions by Netherlandish Masters Cranach the Elder [image], Hans Sebald (see chapter prev. chapter) and Quentin Matsys (image).