When & why
The genre of portraiture has a firm place in the annals of art history.
At first, being the subject of a portrait meant you were somebody particularly noteworthy, such as a king or an emperor. Over time and particularly in modern and postmodern art, the genre of portraiture was subverted and the range of sitters became much more diverse. What, or rather who, was worthy of being a portrait subject was extended to encompass persons of any race, gender and rank you could think of.
Our infant and pregnancy loss portraits can be seen in the context of a broader art history. However, they are not only unique, original artworks by professional portrait artists. They have profoundly 'practical' purposes too.
Depending on the stage of gestation, a baby may be more or less developed. Its body may survive labour more or less unharmed. Where damage to skin or the skeletal integrity of the body is sustained, a portrait can ignore or attenuate these jarring features, which a photograph cannot but show.
Parents may also wish to soften the visibility of congenital anomalies. This is not to say we don't love our children the way they are. But just as we curate the photos and pictures we choose to frame of ourselves, so too can we choose the way in which we want to remember our loved ones.
When an angel baby is born into a family with existing children, parents are faced with a very particular challenge. Photos of angel babies can be confronting and may be alienating for smaller children. But siblings still want to meet their new baby brother or sister!
A portrait drawing gives children the opportunity to meet the new family member in a medium and a manner that is relatable, accessible and digestible for children of all ages.
A bad photo
There are many wonderful angel baby photographers, but not all bereaved parents have access to their services. Amateur pictures cannot be compared to those taken by a professional - especially when the subject matter is as hard to portray as a dead baby. Phone camera pictures in particular often fall short of the intended goal of being a cherished keepsake. And parents whose losses lie up to several decades in the past, often have only have fading polaroids to go by.
A drawing gently brings out the best any photo has to offer. It can salvage fading, blurring, rectify bad composition and correct for bad lighting through the medium of drawing.
Showing you care
The extended family is also shaken by the birth of an angel baby in their midst. Relatives and close friends often want to give bereaved parents a memento of their child, to support them in the immediate stages of grief. A portrait drawing is a tasteful, loving way to commemorate a child.
But a portrait can also be gifted on birth and death anniversaries years after the fact. Parents will never forget their child - so giving them a keepsake portrait down the track is a way to show you have not forgotten their baby either.
Parents of multiple angel babies often express the desire to have their children depicted together. They often ask for their children to be drawn next to each other in the same portrait, or they apply for individual portraits to be framed side by side.
Both options give bereaved parents the opportunity to unite angel baby brothers and sisters - even those conceived in different pregnancies - in one portrait.
An expression of love
Bereaved parents who do have beautiful photographs of their angel baby may still wish to apply for a portrait! They may choose to put their portrait up at home, keep it just for themselves in a drawer or have memorial cards printed for friends and relatives with the high-resolution scan that comes with their drawing.
A keepsake of your child is not the vegan option at a restaurant: there can - and should be - more than one choice on the menu! A portrait drawing offers parents greater commemorative options and can complement photographic memories and other keepsakes.
Looking at photos or pictures of loved ones who have passed away makes us feel closer to them. We remember the moments we shared with them, be they many or few, and for an instance are reunited with them in memory.
An angel baby portrait has much the same function. It allows a parent to reunite with their baby in spirit, to feel them nearby, to think about them and contemplate their memory intimately.
The use of grief support tools such as peer support groups, keepsakes or counselling are more effective strategies for learning to live with grief than denial or self-punishment.
Do any of these situations apply to you?
We want to help.
If you think an angel baby portrait could help you with your grief or in dealing with any of the situations mentioned above, please get in touch with us.