Estimating ages is easier than determining gender or country, but there is no way of being precise. Some old photographs have names and ages on the back. Unfortunately most do not. We have tended to estimate ages roughly by the way the children look and are dressed. Our general approach is to make an estimate and then adjust if if readers have any comments and differences of opinion. Of course children vary at any age. Some children look younger or older than they look. Generally we think our age estimates are within about 1 year of the actual ages. But of course we have surely made some errors. Please let us know if you see a mistake that you beliee we have made. There are also more methods of assessing age with considerable precession. This involves body proportions, but it is often difficult to assess when the children are standing erect so that proportions can be compared. Artists sometimes use similar approaches.
Estimating ages is easier than determining gender or country, but there is no way of being precise. Some old photographs have names and ages on the back. Unfortunately most do not. Knowing the ages is very helpful in using the photographs to understand clothing conventions in different countries and over time.
We have tended to estimate ages roughly by the way the children look and are dressed. Both of these are variable factors. Some children look younger or older than they look. And families have vasried as to what is age appropriate clothing. These aditudes have varied among countries and over time. We attempt to take these vsariable factors into account. Our general approach is to make an estimate and then adjust if if readers have any comments and differences of opinion. Of course children vary at any age. Generally we think our age estimates are within about 1 year of the actual ages. But of course we have surely made some errors. Please let us know if you see a mistake that you believe we have made. Our attitude is that the best test of our estimates is presenting them for scrutiny. The give or take of our HBC forum will eventually arrive at a resonable estimate.
Family trends are a very helpful clue in estimating the age of a child. Families were much larger in the 19th abd early 20th century than is the case today. Thus we commonly see families with three or more childrn. Often but not always they were very close in age. Here biology offers some clues. The gestation period is 9 months. Normally mom needed a little time to recover. So when you have large families. the age gap is often about 2 years. It can be more, but usually is not less.
There are more exacting methods of assessing age with can produce estimates with considerable precession. This involves body proportions, but it is often difficult to assess when the children are standing erect so that proportions can be compared. Apparently using body proportions is the most reliable way of estimating ages in old photographs. Body proportions clearlly change from birth to adolesence and the adolescent growth spurt has to be considered. Head size and lung capacity are important factors. A useful source is an assessment of Spirometry which shows how a child's body proportions change with age.
There are certain furniture clues which can be used as measurement guides. The height of an average chair seat is 15 inches. The height of an average table top is 30inches. This is important because furniture was very often used in old photographs. I early photograph, the furniture helped steady the subject. In later photographs it was often afeature in the portrait and used to help pose the sunject or subjects. The furniture, of course, can also help date the image.
Relative body proportions are something artists have to take into consideration when painting realistic images. Children if pictured at all in ancient art were common drawn as miniature adults. But of course this is inaccurate. Artists in the Reniasance began drawing children with more accurate body proportions. This was particularly important because so much art in the early Renaissance was still reliogious art and depictions of Mary and baby Jesus were still very important. The proportions for children's bodies and heads are quite different than adult proportions. The proportions of children's odies vary in a fairly standard pattern depending on age. While most body proportions change with age, curiously arms hang to about the mid-thigh. This is the case regardless of age. There are also facial proprtion indicators. A reader tells us, "When viewing a child's face, a 3-year old's eyebrows are half way from the top of the head to the chin. For a 10n year-old the top of the eyes is the half way mark, and for a child of 14 and above, the pupil is the half way mark."
Using body proportions and cluses such as furniture can help indicate ages to some degree of acuracy. If one can gauage the height of the child from the furniture and using the facial measurements as a check, I think that the age can be gauged fairly accurately. The are differences among countries and over time. There are also of course substantial individual variations. We are looking primarily at Americans and Europeans.
A newborn's head is proportionately quite large, it wasn't your imagination; it's fact. Recognizing the differences will help make your child portraits more realistic. The standard convention is that the overall height of newborn baby is just a bit more than four times the length of the head. Dürer was one artist who adopted a proportion of one to four. Also a baby's neck is extremely short and the visual impact that a baby's head rests on the shoulders. Babies also have short lower limb. The mid-point of an adult body is roughly the pubic symphysis. The mid-point of a newborn is about the body. This shifts as a child grows. The lower limbs grow longer and the body proportions shift.
At age 1, a child is abour 20 inches tall. This is higher than a cair seat, but well below a table top.At this point the child's body is about five times as long as the child's head. The mid-length point is still about the navel.
A 2-year old would be about 34 inches tall. That means he is slightly taller than table tops.
A 3-year old is about 38 inches tall. When viewing a child's face a 3 year old's eyebrows are half way from the top of the head to the chin.
A 4-year old is about 41 inches tall.
A child at age 5 is about 43 inches tall. The child's body is slightly longer than five and a half times the child's head. The mid-height has moved to a pont between the pubic bone and the navel. The width of the shoulders and pelvic area are very close. The arm when extended is a little longer than two heads lenghts.
A child at age 10 is about 55 inces high. That is has a height of about six heads. The mid-point is now just above the pubic bone. The distances between the nipples and navel are very close. The arm length is about two and a half head lengths. For a 10 year old the top of the eyes is the half way mark of thre face.
A child at age 14 the young teenager is about 68 inches high. That is just slightly less than seven head lengths. The mid-height is only slightly above the pubic area. An extended arm is approximately three head lengths. For a child of 14 and above, the pupil is the half way mark of the face.
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