Friday, February 22, 2013

Pre-Renaissance Artists Painted Ugly Children

Strange Little Pre-Renaissance Children!

Duccio di Buoninsegna Madonna and Child
Before the 1400s, artists didn't do cute children. They did strange little man-like children. See our example of Buoninsegna's Madonna and Child. Could it be that the gene pool actually created children that ugly back then?

Not quite. Actually, there are a couple of academic discussions as to why this era of artists created ugly children:
  • People didn't think of children as anything but miniature adults, and that's how the artists depicted them.
  • Early artists may not have grasped the concept that adults and children had different proportions.
  • Have you ever tried to keep a child seated long enough to draw even his face? Rather than make a child sit for very long, artists may have just used the proportions they were used to painting, and that would have been the proportions of adults.
  • Just about all the children painted were of the Christ child. The artists may have created the man-like Christ on purpose to show that Christ was wise beyond his years.
Duccio di Buoninsegna (Italian, Sienese, 1255-1319). Madonna and Child

Duccio di Buoninsegna painted lots and lots of these Madonna and Child portraits -- all of them just about carbon copies of each other. Here's one that showcases a pre-Renaissance Christ child. While the image is quite appealing if you're going for stylistic and graphic, if the artist was striving for realism, he failed miserably. This is a very unproportional child... small head, skinny, and he's balding just like an old man, but ... it's a baby...

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