Ugly Renaissance Baby Jesuses

In honor of the birth of Jesus — or rather, the supposed birth of the very-likely-entirely-imaginary Jesus character in the New Testament myth — I bring you, from my visit last fall to the Art Institute in Chicago: Ugly Renaissance baby Jesuses. (Jesi?)

Ugly Renaissance Baby Jesus 1

Ugly Renaissance Baby Jesus 2

Ugly Renaissance baby Jesus 3

Really fills you with a deep sense of reverence and awe, doesn’t it? Or something.

Ugly Renaissance Baby Jesuses

13 thoughts on “Ugly Renaissance Baby Jesuses

  1. 5

    Part of the problem is that they give baby Jesus too grown up of a face. I wonder if that was a problematic convention with depictions of children in general, or if they were trying to sell Jesus as “wise beyond his years”.

    And, I’m no anatomist, but Mary’s breast in that last one seems a bit to high and close to the sternum.

  2. 6

    And, I’m no anatomist, but Mary’s breast in that last one seems a bit to high and close to the sternum.

    That could be a result of whatever caused the Middle Eastern Jewish woman to look Northern European.

  3. 9

    I suspect that, because so much of the art produced in the renaissance was done on commission, that what we are seeing are iconic figures being depicted as resembling the person or family of the person that commissioned the art. I lack the patience, and knowledge of art, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out who commissioned the pieces and compare them to any depictions you can find.

  4. 10

    The angel in the second one does not approve. Is it because Mary is letting Jesus at the candy bowl? Or has he just noticed Mary’s mutant hands?

  5. 11

    Yeah. No. 1 in particular is clearly the face of an adult. And I would bet money that it at least superficially resembles the patron or the person the patron was sucking up to by commissioning the painting.

  6. 13


    Yes, I noticed that. I think Jesus is surreptitiously grabbing a sweet while pretending to be absorbed in the book, and the angel is going t oslap his hand.

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