The birth of a new life is indeed a joyous blessing, but giving birth is still a life-risking journey. Thanks to medical advancement, maternal mortality rates are significantly lower than the past. But what was it like 400 years ago? The healthy birth of a baby would be a blessing itself.
“Two Ladies of the Cholmondeley,” the 17th-century portrait of two mothers and children, is full of mystery. It is presumed to be drawn by an artist from Cheshire, England, but that is all that is known. Two well-dressed mothers are sitting side by side on a bed holding newborns in their arms. Their attire and appearance are exactly alike, like identical twins. But since the color of their eyes are different, they would not be identical twins, but perhaps sisters or relatives. The mothers are adorned in white dresses with lace and jewelry, and the babies, who are clothed in white dresses, are wrapped in red christening robes.
Though they appear identically posed and seem to wear the same clothes, but a closer look reveals that necklace design, dress and lace patterns are slightly different. Who are they and what is the reason to leave such portraits behind? The writing on the lower left corner gives a hint: The two Cholmondeley ladies, said to be born and married on the same day, represented with children in their arms. So this explains why these two ladies are overdressed and posed to have their portraits painted. An amazing and remarkable event has occurred, which would have been reported on media even in modern times. The Cholmondeley family would have wanted to record this blessed event in history. Much like the photographs today that we take to record a memory.
As of late last year, the birth rate of Korea recorded 0.9 for the first time in history, which signals an alarm for the age of demographic cliff. This means that the average couple does not have one child. Just as people marveled at the birth of the Cholmondeley family 400 years ago, the birth of a child could be seen as a big event in the future.