Painting Childhood, Compton Verney, review: from works of genius to downright failures

The Five Eldest Children of Charles I by Van Dyck (1637)
The Five Eldest Children of Charles I by Van Dyck (1637) Credit: THE ROYAL COLLECTION

Does the experience of childhood change over the centuries, or do the agonies and ecstasies of bringing up children – for both parent and child – remain essentially the same? This exhibition, promising some of the “most iconic” paintings of children from the past 500 years, begins with a tiny drawing that very much supports the latter view.

The subject of Study of a Child Trying on a Cap by the Italian artist Domenichino wears a cheeky little smile as he puts on the unfamiliar headgear, an expression we all know, to be closely followed, no doubt, by a howling tantrum. The drawing was done in 1600, but we’ve all known this child – many of us have been them.

From there on, however, the exhibition...

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