Have You Ever Wondered Why Babies In Medieval Paintings Are So…Ugly? [Video]

If you’ve ever been to the museum and seen any medieval art there’s one thing you probably noticed right off the bat: the babies look a little…

…weird.

screenshot of medieval painting with baby looking like an old man - Kids Activities Blog
Why does this baby look so old?

Why do Medieval Painting Babies Look Like Old Men?

Not just weird, but a little bit like ugly old men.

Why?

Why, oh why would someone intentionally paint babies to look like this?

screenshot from video about why Medieval painting babies look old
Why do babies look scary and not squishy and sweet?

The trend is pretty invasive and actually has a really cool backstory.

See, back in medieval times artists mostly painted religious art.

That’s what the royalty wanted, so the artists delivered.

And since they were painting for religion, all of the mother/baby combos were based on Mary and Jesus.

screenshot of medieval painting with baby with super defined features
The baby features are so well-defined making them look older…much older!

Only, back then they believed Jesus was essentially a homunculus: a fully grown man in baby form.

Benjamin Button, without the backwards aging.

They believed that Jesus was born fully formed as a perfect man, so each of these babies were painted as their version of a man in baby form.

Kinda creepy.

screenshot of video about medieval paintings and how kids and babies look so much older
Is He 1 or 101?

Luckily, as soon as non-royals could afford it, people started requesting paintings of their own cherub-cheeked babies, and the trend ended.

Take a look!

Video of Why Babies in Medieval Paintings Look Like Old Men

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One Comment

  1. Depicting the holy infant with an adult face was symbolic. It was intended to indicate a deep level of wisdom, even at birth. Think of it like this — if someone asked you to draw love, you might draw a heart shape instead.
    The homunculus was never a part of christian tradition, but rather a concept in alchemy. Alchemists often theorized about ways to produce a homunculus, and some alchemists theorized sperms might contain a homunculus. The Christian church was never in favor of these unproven claims or attempts to produce unnatural life.
    Since I take an interest in this period, I just felt the need to say something. Symbolism in old religious art is a rich subject, so I hope some of y’all might read up on it. Have a nice day!

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