Why Do Babies In Medieval Paintings Looks So Ugly And Creepy?
Comment: According to this theory, these babies are supposed to be homunculi, i.e., tiny versions of fully formed humans. “Most of those medieval babies were depictions of Jesus,” according to some article I found on Vox. “The concept of the homuncular Jesus affected how children were portrayed.” But even if that’s true, why were they so ugly? I mean, some of the babies in these paintings look like zombies. Did medieval painters really think that Jesus was that grotesque in real life?
For some reason, the butt-ugly baby Jesus became a convention in the medieval world. “The strangeness that we see in medieval art stems from a lack of interest in naturalism, and they veered more toward expressionistic conventions,” according to Matthew Averett, art history professor and editor of the anthology The Early Modern Child in Art and History. (Quoted in the Vox article.)
“In turn, this made most of the people in medieval art look similar. ‘The idea of artistic freedom to depict these people however you want would have been new. There were artistic conventions,'” according to Averett.
Next video shows how Jesus was depicted in some medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts.
The depiction of Jesus in medieval art apparently caused a lot of controversy at first, especially since the New Testament doesn’t provide us with a description of what he looked like. According to Wikipedia, “The conventional image of a fully bearded Jesus with long hair emerged around 300, but did not become established until the 6th century in Eastern Christianity, and much later in the West. It has always had the advantage of being easily recognizable, and distinguishing Jesus from other figures shown around him, which the use of a cruciform halo also achieves. Earlier images were much more varied.”
Even so, I’ve yet to see a medieval depiction of the adult Jesus that was as fugly as these babies, though some come close in various ways. The video What Did Jesus Really Look Like argues that an early tradition about Jesus’ appearance still survives in various writings and artwork, describing him as beardless and probably short and kind of ugly or at least ordinary looking. The main thing I got out of the video is that the character of Jesus, like that of Sherlock Holmes.