Why Do Babies in Medieval Art Look Like Adults?

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Why Do Babies in Medieval Art Look Like Adults?

Babies in medieval art have one thing in common: they don't look like babies. Instead, they look like miniature versions of middle-aged men, sometimes complete with thinning hair and ripped muscles.

Throughout medieval times, as well as in the Renaissance, depictions of eerie prematurely aged newborns were produced until the custom (thankfully) died out. The Renaissance, in particular, may well have produced all-time great art, so what about all those hideous children in old paintings?

Artists are driven to depict newborn babies in a rather unusual way. These creepy kids seem to agree with the rule that artwork is symbolic.

Babies dressed as insurance agents may seem odd to modern eyes, but the practice was fueled by Christianity, medieval medical expertise and outdated ideas about childhood.

The most famous child of all time: Jesus must have looked grown up when pictures of him as a baby were painted
The artists borrowed their inspiration from the dominant ideas of Christianity to depict Jesus Christ, the child most often depicted in medieval art. Throughout Christ's life, the community believed that he was fundamentally a handsome and stable man.

Since the baby Christ was not meant to grow over time, he had to arrive in a mature form. The Christian churches did not want Jesus to be depicted as a child; rather, a short man was favored.

Locally painted pictures were still rare in medieval times. Most of the photos of children were sponsored by churches, which limited the subject matter to several newborn saints, such as baby Jesus.

Because Christ seemed to be the most frequently depicted infant, other babies in medieval art began to take on the medieval characteristics of the infant Jesus.

The concept of the homunculus, meaning "little man", contributed to the predilection of medieval painters for depicting children of mature appearance.

A homunculus, according to common perception, is a properly developed male that is said to reside before the actual birth. When the alchemist Paracelsus used phrases in his instructions to make a child without fertilization or pregnancy, it became popular.

The homunculus hypothesis has spread to other fields such as theology, art and reproductive sciences.

Although Renaissance art was more concerned with authenticity, medieval painters favored artistic expression. "The weirdness we see in medieval art stems from a lack of concern for naturalism, and they leaned more towards expressionist standards," fine art expert Matthew Averett told Vox.

Medieval painters didn't care whether the newborns in their works looked like real children. The artistic techniques were quite consistent and the painters of the time were tied to tradition.

These standards were often driven by religious images rather than reality. The church had requirements for depicting the Christ Child and painters were inclined to follow custom.

If you want to learn more about why babies in medieval art look like adults, check out this awesome video tutorial!

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Art History

Source: Weird History

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