Blog / Creepy Baby Face

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By Christine Smith, Nasher Museum Intern

Last Friday, I braved the crowd and took advantage of FREE DAY at the Nasher Museum. I mean $5 isn’t going to break the bank, but I, like most other college students, am immediately drawn to anything with the word FREE attached to it. Free food, free t-shirts, and now Duke even offers free art!

While walking around the exhibit with a couple of my friends, I came upon Jusepe de Ribera’s Saints Peter and Paul.  Like any good art appreciator, I stopped in front of it, stared at it for a while and read the blurb printed in the exhibit bulletin.  As I turned to walk away, the security guard positioned next to the painting walked up to my friends and I and, in an excited tone, asked if we had noticed the baby head.  My initial response was “Baby head? What baby head? This is a picture of two saints. Obviously this man is crazy!” After he pointed out the face in the scroll held between the two saints and I came to grips with the fact that this security guard apparently knows more about art than I do, my friends and I began to debate the reason for its existence.

Why is it there? Why is it upside down? What does it mean? Is it symbolic? Is it a watermark? Perhaps it’s really a hologram and if the Nasher would only let us turn the picture, we would see the face change into something else! To me, it looks like Casper the Friendly Ghost is just hanging out in the middle of the image. Doubtful, but really, what does it mean?

3 Responses to “Creepy Baby Face”

  1. Sarah

    I thought I was crazy. I saw it and looked and looked and turned my head and tried not to see it but its there. I’m so glad someone else sees it too. Does anyone have a clue what its about? Is it just some sort of shadow/light/paint flaw/issue? I’m so confused but it looks so obvious to me.

  2. Susan

    My son and I saw it, but no one else seemed to be commenting on it. “Creepy” is the word I used too! I cannot find any mention of it on the Internet – I thought maybe this was a case of a re-used canvas…

  3. Felix

    I saw it also. A lady who was also passing through (she said she was a volunteer at the museum – I assume she meant the Nasher Museum) said that it was common for canvases to be reused and that probably explains the baby face (as Susan has surmised). However, two things struck me, 1. I’m not an art expert but the upside down baby face looked to be different in style from the faces on the painting, and 2. there was no mention of the baby face image either the audio narrative or the pamphlet guide. For something that is so apparent, why wouldn’t they say something about this? What gives?!

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