Monday, December 16, 2013

16th Century Nativity Scene Features People With Down Syndrome

This is from a post by Erna Albertz, writing at the Riftom website.

"In 1515 the painting 'The Adoration of the Christ Child,' was created by a follower of the Dutch painter Jan Joest of Kalkar. A close look at the artwork reveals two characters who appear to have Down syndrome. One a shepherd–looking down at the scene from behind a post at the center of the painting–and the other an angel standing beside the mother Mary, these two participants in the nativity are situated in what would seem to be places of honor. Because the painter is unknown, his motive for placing them there can only be surmised. He may have had a child with Down syndrome or simply known individuals with the condition. At that time, the syndrome also may not have been formally diagnosed as it is today. What seems beyond doubt is that he felt they belonged there, in the midst of the holy scene."

Ms. Albertz is not the first observer to note the presence of people with Down Syndrome in the painting--in responding to a comment to her article, she notes some scholars had written about it in 2003. 

What a lovely Christmas picture by the unknown artist!

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