"The Three Ages of Woman" was Klimt's first large-scale private allegory, and the first to abandon entirely the use of historical or mythological symbolism. Prior to this, he had painted smaller, less complex allegories, such as "Judih I" for a private audience, but his bigger, multi-figure panels had always been intended for public display. "The Three Ages of Woman" thus stands halfway between earlier commissions like the University paintings and the large allegorical canvases of the artist's last years. Even the individual characters look backward as well as forward: All three woman may be discerned in "Medicine" and in altered form, in "Death and Life." During this time, he became absorbed with the subject after the death of his baby son, Otto in 1902. It is also significant that as in his previous 'private' allegories, Klimt concentrated his attentions exclusively on the female figure. The painting presents its elemental message- "in life we are in death"- not only through the three principal characters, but also via a complex network of adjunct symbols. Like the "Water Serpents I," the women are encapsulated in a sea of baubles representative of the life force. However, now this column of life is isolated within a surrounding void, which, despite the touch of Klimt's decorating hand, offers a far gloomier, more barren environment than the teeming cocoon within which the protagonists rest. Death- here, as in other paintings by Klimt, represented by the color blue- awaits ominously on the horizon, winding its gossamer threads even about the legs of the innocent young mother.