The Naughty Heart


Have you ever looked at the heart shape properly? I mean, really looked at it?

It’s naughty.

It’s sexy.

It’s romantic.

It’s everything it’s supposed to be for representing love.

Look at it this way:

heart photo

We can imagine the female anatomy – breasts leading down to the vulva – the bottom is even in a V shape, and if you turn the heart on its side, the top looks like a B!

Yet if we turn it the other way up:

– lo and behold we have a pair of testicles, and the suggestion of a man’s love member (since it’s February, I’m not going to use the word ‘penis’ because it’s not a particularly lovely word…).

So what’s the history of the heart-shape as we know it?

Some scholars argue that the shape originates from artists trying to depict the heart with three chambers, according to ancient medical texts from Aristotle and Galen.

In medieval times, the heart-shape was used on heraldic objects, but was not symbolic of love; rather the shape depicted a lily-pad:

lily pad photo

A lily pad symbolised eloquence and persuasion. I actually find this interesting, because these two elements are present in every romantic relationship, aren’t they…think of the First Date. The Proposal. One is supposed to be both eloquent and persuasive.

Heraldry also used the symbol inverted, to symbolise a pair of testicles. The Colleoni family of Milan use this in their Canting arms. Canting arms are those who depict the bearer’s name in a visual pun. Testicles, in Italian, is coglioni. Colleoni, coglioni.

So when was this shape first used to depict love? Nobody really knows the answer, although there are clues. In the Empress Zoe mosaic of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, dated 1239, there are heart symbols on the bible Jesus holds.

Heart symbols have also been seen on Persian excavations (circa 90 BC – 637 AD). Tantalizing!

The heart shape became popular in religious art during the Renaissance, and began to be used as a suit in playing cards at this time.

Since the 1900s, the heart has been used to represent love on Valentine’s Day cards, and chocolate boxes.

heart chocolates photo

Aw. It’s a pretty awesome shape, isn’t it!

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