Last month in the Amsterdam History Museum, I admired this touching portrait of a solemn little boy dressed up as a militia officer, complete with a pike in his hand. This child was no doubt a member of a wealthy family in the Netherlands of the 1600s. The city militia of the time was not so much a military or police organization as an exclusive club for the elite. This child’s family hoped he would grow up to be a civic leader. At that time, children were generally portrayed as miniature adults. Still, parents must have had the same feelings present-day parents have.
This portrait reminded me of the costumes present-day children wear, for Halloween and for everyday play. The firefighter’s costume above is for sale at http://www.rakuten.com/prod/kids-baby-halloween-costume-firefighter-fireman/211550071.html?sellerid=23844739. I saw kids trick-or-treating in similar costumes last week.
We all want our children to grow up to be useful members of society. I’m sure that parents in the 1600s, like present-day parents, watched each stage of their childrens’ development with a mixture of pride and apprehension. Then as now, parents must have wished they could prolong childhood for their little ones.
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!