Why babies in medieval paintings look like ugly old men

Why babies in medieval paintings look like ugly old men


So you’re going to the museum and it’s great.
The guards check your bag so you, I don’t know, shoot a painting; you go up some fancy
escalators, you see naked statues. And then it happens. You see a super ugly Medieval baby. Why do medieval babies look like ugly middle
aged men? This baby looks like he wants to tell you
to that ‘a boat is just a money pit’. It might seem like medieval artists were just
bad at drawing. But it turns out that babies in medieval art are actually ugly for a reason. While there were breakthroughs in anatomy
and perspective that happened later in the Renaissance, ugly medieval babies were an
intentional choice before that time. If somebody told you to paint like Pablo Picasso
and you gave them Norman Rockwell, you would have screwed up. And it’s the same way for
artists working in churches in Italy. It’s because most of these babies were depictions
of Jesus and Mary. They were influenced by the idea of the homunculus,
which is Latin for little man. These babies looked like Benjamin Button because philosophers
believed Jesus was born perfectly formed and unchanged. The adult Jesus was represented
in the baby Jesus. Until the Renaissance, when everything changed.
Generally, we think of the Middle Ages lasting from around the 5th to 15th century, and it
kind of overlapped the beginning of the Renaissance in the 14th century. The Renaissance probably began in Florence
Italy, but it’s important to note that it unfolded over centuries and countries in a
time when everything moved slowly. So, it wasn’t instant beautiful babies everywhere. Still, the change in style did happen, and
it happened for a couple of reasons. Places like Florence were getting richer and churches
weren’t the only places that could afford paintings. People could get their own babies
painted, and they wanted them to look like cute chubby babies, not homunculi. And because
the Renaissance was all about classics, they looked at Greek and Roman art, which was all
about idealized forms that ditched the medieval abstraction for beauty. Anyway, the point is that after the Renaissance
cherubs didn’t seem out of place, and neither did cuter pictures of baby Jesus as the Renaissance
spread through Europe. And it’s kinda stayed that way since. We want babies who look like
they need their cheeks pinched, not their prostates checked. We want them chubby and
cute, and we want babies that fit our ideals. Because those medieval babies? They have a
face that only a mother can love.

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