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  #1  
Old 07-11-2006, 06:42 PM
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Landseer Landseer is offline
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What do you think of this?

Someone elsewhere took this image and was curious about the tight wraps, there is another portrait of an obvious male baby clothed a little differently - midsection wrapped but genitals exposed, and wrapped more loosely.
This was New York Lying-In Hospital (1899) in the early 20th Century, 60 percent of all NYC hospital births were here.

I suggested the following at least for this one below, what do you think?

"More likely than not the tightly bound wraps was an artist license with some symbolism involved beyond just the infant portrait though I am unable to identify what that might be- I could guess it might be symbolic of the birthing process- emerging from the womb which could be represented in a non explicit way just as this was- through a clever use of tightly embracing folds of cloth.

Indeed if you read this and look at the portrait this might have been the artist's intent to portray either known or unknowingly to those who had the design installed in the first place."


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Old 07-11-2006, 08:26 PM
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WeiMingKai WeiMingKai is offline
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Re: What do you think of this?

At first glance - the tight wrappings on the legs ending in a sack-like bulge around the feet strike me as violent and threatening, as if they might hurt the baby, I can't imagine what borrowed symbolism would explain it. A living baby likes to wiggle around, a dead thing gets wrapped up tight.

This image was designed at a significant cultural remove in time from when my 'symbolic language' was aquired (end of the 20th beginning of 21st century) but tight constricting wrappings around a body are in my mind:
Funerary - ala egyptian mummies, burial shrouds, and so on
Sanitary - ala wrapping a body for disposal as seem in way to many gangster movies, after school specials about unwanted pregnancy, and the news coming from states that are backwaters of reproductive rights/access to family planning services

I seriously doubt architechts and underwriters of the era would have approved such frank and grim depictions of unpleasant reality by graphically acknowledging infant mortality - ambiguously....or does the baby emerging from the shroud symbolize the escape of new life from the jaws of death?

Compared to unscientific midwifery, superstition, and lack of full medical services being the normal landscape of risk traversed by women in earlier centuries, maybe a hospital intended to alleviate much of that risk would encrust itself with images of children emerging from death?

Those are my theories, if you don't like those - give me a minute, i'll make more.
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Old 07-11-2006, 09:23 PM
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Re: What do you think of this?

Well you know, the outstretched arms appeaing on both figures is also a curiosity, it is difficult to tell but if we could see whether the eyes were open or closed that might shed some light.
You might have something on the funerary aspect, remember- back then people typically posed in the front parlor for last photos with their deceased family members, especially babies prior to burial- something you dont see today, so the whole aspect of the deceased and taking portrats of them to remember them was accepted back then, as such I wouldnt find it odd this would migrate to similar depictions on buildings. It might even be a case where so many imigrants who didnt speak English and couldt read "HOSPITAL" signs, would use images over the doorway...

Here is a photo of the other figure for comparison, note the difference in treatment here;




I'll find out if there are more of these, it may be there are more which depict some sort of series, this is also with outstretched arms so there might be some significance there.

The designs appear similar to two on an orphanage in Italy!

http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/ospedale/d10067.jpg

Last edited by Landseer : 07-11-2006 at 09:38 PM.
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Old 07-11-2006, 09:56 PM
janeb janeb is offline
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Re: What do you think of this?

This is evidently a copy of a tondo by Luca della Robbia on the facade of Ospedale degli innocenti in Florence. Each tondo on this facade is different, but all show putti in swaddling clothes. Swaddling a baby might seem cruel - but any mother will know that a new baby is comforted by being wrapped firmly when put down to sleep.

Last edited by janeb : 07-11-2006 at 10:01 PM. Reason: add
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Old 07-12-2006, 03:28 AM
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Cantab Cantab is offline
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Re: What do you think of this?

I'm curious about the work itself. The body of the baby is clearly quite old. There is evidence of decay, damage and weathering, and the style is clearly classical. Whereas, the 'swaddling' appears to be pristine, with fine lines and highly realistic bunching of material - stylistically much more modern. What is this exactly?!
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Old 07-12-2006, 03:54 AM
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Re: What do you think of this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cantab
I'm curious about the work itself. The body of the baby is clearly quite old. There is evidence of decay, damage and weathering, and the style is clearly classical. Whereas, the 'swaddling' appears to be pristine, with fine lines and highly realistic bunching of material - stylistically much more modern. What is this exactly?!
It is carved stone on a building in NYC that was once a hospital, it dates to 1899. I assume the damage in some areas might be from frost or even soft areas in the stone. See the links I posted above they show more. It is an interesting carving and I thought well done.
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Old 07-12-2006, 04:01 AM
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Re: What do you think of this?

Interesting stuff - The other two pieces clarify the function of the cloth material better and its use as a binding. The piece shown at top makes the swaddling look like a bag! Or a sculpture under repair!
As the carvings are on a hospital building, the bindings suggest medical practices once used for babies in first few days of life. My wife tells me swaddling was used to ease certain conditions, such as colic, and to keep babies warm in these first few days out of the womb. Helps sleep too, she says! Apparently swaddling was also used to reduce reflex responses in babies. This particular carving may refer to this..... There are also intimations of the baby Christ, both in the outstretched arms and the swaddling. The open hands are religious symbols for the stigmata....

Last edited by Cantab : 07-12-2006 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 07-12-2006, 08:44 PM
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fritchie fritchie is offline
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Re: What do you think of this?

All these ideas have merit. My reaction on seeing the first image was of a baby escaping "the mortal coils" to the freedom of heaven, and my first thought about location was a cemetery, but the image seemed too stark for that, so a hospital was my next thought.

I still suspect the "infant death" interpretation might be closest to the truth, particularly because of the crucifix-like pose. It resembles a mature Jesus departing this Earth. Similar to a suggestion above, the image might let non-English speakers know that the hospital was Christian and patients (babies) would be cared for in that manner.
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  #9  
Old 07-13-2006, 02:41 PM
SJFresearcher SJFresearcher is offline
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Re: What do you think of this?

Adding a humorous element to this, I have found the following regarding the male babies in question:

It has two sculptures of naked boys carved into it above the arched glass door that would have been changed had it been up to a woman who wrote to Mr. Morgan, vociferously objecting. While praising the hospital's benefactor for his "princely gift," she wrote, "Is it necessary to have nude figures of male children only, when both male and female children are treated in the institution?

"Hoping that you will the naked clothe," she ended.

Her framed letter now adorns the lobby.
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