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A Down Syndrome Angel.

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flemish

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.


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I am also a mother of one of these 'earthly Angels'and do not understand why so many of you are at odds with the idea that these children could be represented in art. My daughter reminds me everyday of what is truly important in life. Angels are interpreted as beings of pure love. How do we know that the rest of us are SHORT by one chromosome????
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EVERY ONE SHOULD READ THE BOOK WRITTEN IN THE 1950'S BY DALE EVANS ROGERS ENTITLED, "ANGEL UNAWARE". This is a message we should all receive. People with Down Syndrome are ANGELS on EARTH with their love of simple things, CHRISTIAN LOVE FOR ALL and it is so obvious to me since my daughter has Down Syndrome and she is nothing but an ANGEL! Rebecca Mann
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I KNOW MY DAUGHTER WITH DOWN SYNDROME IS AN EARTHLY ANGEL SENT FROM HEAVEN (ANGEL UNAWARE) TAKING HUMAN FORM. SHE IS AN ANGEL!!! The Paintings help to prove this too! I should know, I am her MOM!
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The model was a child with Down Syndrome, clearly. The inclusion of such children shouldn't be a surprise. Such people would not have been as out of place in that society, since I would imagine most people back then could only just read and write and do basic mathematics at what we might consider an elementary level, unless they were scholars or merchants. So someone who was a bit "slow" would only be slightly below the average curve. People with Downs can be just as social and funny and creative as "normal" folks. Someone with unusual features might have gotten a few second glances, but I imagine for the most part, they were just considered a little "slow" or "awkward" but still could be a productive part of that society.
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