No sacrilege intended, but there’s some good sport to be had in museums’ Medieval collections, innocently enough poking fun at the grisly visages of thirteenth-century Virgins and Christ Children… the ones turned out before the naturalism seeking libertarians of the Renaissance started grappling with the subject.
Rather than cherubic, Dark Age Baby Jesus often looks the part of a full-grown man amidst a midlife crisis, replete with wobbly chins, a well-receded hairline and a grunty face that smacks of an inflamed prostate. Hey, fleshy, squalling infants have never made the best models. But Mother Mary, well, she’s not exactly portrayed as a yummy mummy either…
There’s a high-minded reason for that! Allow James Earle and Ted-Ed to illuminate things below, in a quick video that covers exactly why la Sainte Vierge always seems so clunky in the feudal equivalent of mom jeans.
Turns out it all began in the fifth century with those city-sacking Goths, who toppled Rome and much of its earthly glory with it. With few left to persecute them, opportunistic Christians began preaching and attracting followings of those with little more to cling to than the marble rubble around them. The whole mood suddenly got more celestial.
The physical became downright distasteful. Preening like a demi-god no longer mattered, beauty became synonymous with virtue. It’s not hotness, but goodness, that lasts forever, and the monastic brain centres of Europe ensured that fact by only copying writings and drawings that supported their purified agenda. And Mary, Queen of Sacred Hearts, was left perpetually covered up and big boned.