Monday, November 26, 2007

A Down's Syndrome Angel

I came across this post from a blog I subscribe to. Thought it was worth sharing...

As Medgadget reports, "Several years ago, psychiatrist Andrew Levitas and geneticist Cheryl Reid made an interesting discovery:

[They] identified a 16th-century Flemish Nativity painting in which one angelic figure appears distinctly different from other individuals in the painting with an appearance of Down syndrome. . . . This may be one of the earliest European representations of Down syndrome.

The British Medical Journal elaborates:

The 1515 Flemish painting, by an unknown artist, . . . shows an angel (next to Mary) and possibly one other figure, the shepherd in the centre of the background with the syndrome.

"If our diagnosis is correct, this implies that Down’s syndrome is not a modern disease," say [Levitas and Reid] (American Journal of Medical Genetics 2003;116:399-405).

The diagnosis of Down’s syndrome in the angel was based on a number of features: a flattened mid-face, epicanthal folds, upslanted palpebral fissures, a small and upturned tip of the nose, and downward curving of the corners of the mouth. The hands, crossed over the breast, have short fingers, especially on the left.


Blogger Em said...

Interesting indeed. I was hoping (after looking at the picture) that it would say something about their special spirits. I really liked this painting.

8:49 AM, November 27, 2007  
Blogger jenny said...

Thanks for sharing this, Mike. Interesting historical trivia, that is also enlightening. It makes sense to paint angels with DS. They are after all the most innocent of us all.

10:55 AM, November 27, 2007  
Blogger Mindy said...

Very interesting, Mike.

I guess I never thought of DS as being a "modern" syndrome, but all I ever heard about the olden days of DS was that they were locked away from the get-go. So, it is so lovely to see someone with DS portayed in such a positive light, considering the times.

It's always a little weird for me to look at a photo, or painting (such as this), or even at a live person in front of me, and think, 'Hey, that looks like MY kid!' I sometimes forget that Emily has DS...

Wonder where I could find a print of this painting. I love it.

3:17 PM, November 28, 2007  
Blogger Michelle said...

Mike, what an amazing picture! Thank you for sharing.

11:10 AM, February 02, 2008  

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