This puts it in some perspective:
Matthew Schmitz at First Things has a few more examples from Christian art.
Now compare them with the Time cover. How is that any different? It’s the kid’s advanced age, Matt suggests — to which one commenter replies, You know, in some cultures it would be considered age-appropriate enough.
But is cultural relativism really the last word? The pictures of Mary nursing Jesus are touching. The photo of a different mother nursing a different child is not. My reaction to the magazine cover is not the same as my reaction to the religious paintings. And if you told me yours is, you’d be lying, unless you’re blind to body language.
In the photo, the woman, dressed in black, has her hand on her hip and strikes a regal pose, conveying a look and a feeling-tone that, however else you might describe them, are highly un-Marian, so that comparisons to Madonna and Child don’t ring true. And what is that expression on the boy’s face? A cry for help?
The religious paintings are a visual analog of “Silent Night,” whereas the outré cover photo looks like an outtake from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We could argue over whether the difference between them represents cultural decline or development, but first we’d have to admit the obvious, which is that the difference exists.