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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; uh, 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?

  • I mean, this baby looks like he wants to tell you 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'd have screwed up.

  • And it was the same way for medieval 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 look 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 as 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.

  • Suddenly, 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 and...

  • 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.

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Why babies in medieval paintings look like ugly old men

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    153 posted on 2022/04/28
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