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Miniature Adults? Images of Childhood in Western Art, By Dr. Sophie Oosterwijk

In art history, before the end of the eighteenth century, the child as an independent subject matter hardly existed. The child usually appeared symbolically or allegorically as cupid, putti, or an angel. The child also appeared as a miniature adult as in the depiction of young gods, kings, or, in Christianity, Jesus. This, however, was to change with the advent of the Romantic Movement in Europe. Around 1800, artists, such as William Blake, Louis Leopold Boilly, and Phillip Otto Runge, began to have children appear as individuals in their works, disconnected from their previous symbolic baggage. The image of this now liberated child was one that promised innocence, freedom, and curiosity. However, now made mortal, there was also the necessary introduction of emotions, sexuality, and the prospect of pain, suffering, and death.

Robert Flynn Johnson

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

on the occasion of the exhibition The Child - Works by Gottfried Helnwein, 2004


Recognising the (artistic and social) conventions behind such images (drawings, prints and sculptures as well as paintings) may help to discover more about childhood, throughout history, and about social expectations of both boys and girls.


Tutanchamun as Child, Head emerging from a lotus, so called “Head of Nefertem“, Egyptian Museum (Cairo)