Wednesday, February 06, 2013

"Take Away Leisure, and Cupid's Bow is Broken..."

Not all cupids are alike.  Since the Hallmark-ization of Valentine's Day, we've come to think of cupid and cherubs as being pretty much indistinguishable, but that certainly hasn't always been the case. In the early Judaic tradition, cherubs were the fearsome four-winged guardians of the throne of God, and that's pretty much how they remained until the Renaissance.  Oh, the Renaissance, the whirlpool of art, blending the sacred and the profane. However, little, chubby winged babies weren't always cherubs either. If they were in a religious painting, they were cherubs. If they were in a mythological or scene from antiquity, they were called putti, which meant "little men" (putto is the singular). Cherubs were usually innocent and reverent, putti were often cheeky little imps. If it's got nekkid people in it, the winged babies are putti. As for Cupid himself, his image changed over time.  In antiquity, he started off as a slender youth, but over time became more and more the chubby baby. While he always had wings, the quiver and bow were later additions. In medieval times, he was sometimes depicted as blindfolded (ie. "love is blind")...and then the Renaissance...and then poof, modern day's lack of attachment to our iconographic history has rendered them one and the same.

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