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  • So you're going to the museum and it's great. The guards check your bag to make sure you won't, 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.

  • Ok, who put that ugly baby there?

  • 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 could love.

So you're going to the museum and it's great. The guards check your bag to make sure you won't, I don't know, shoot a painting; you go up some fancy escalators, you see naked statues.

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Why babies in medieval paintings look like ugly old men

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    153 posted on 2016/02/24
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