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Spoil: ❤️ not even heart. You don’t have to be fond of anatomy to know that the heart symbol, which you draw or send via message, has nothing to do (not at all) with the organ that taps our chest. One is symmetrical, with two beautiful curves meeting straight sides, while the other has a relatively thick shape, with tubes running anywhere that blood flows like automatic irrigation.
Obviously, sending a loved one a heart dripping with blood is less romantic than a small, well -placed emoji, or a letter with a beautiful, well -drawn heart. How did we get there? Why do we represent the human heart in this way, so far away from the organ in question?
Before it ends in yellow, blue or green on our screens, the heart symbol as we know it has been around for a long time. You have to go back to Antiquity to find clues to the origin of its form, but also of its symbolism, which is associated with warm love.
At the risk of shocking you, the heart drawing does not represent, at the base, even a single heart. In fact, it was inspired by a particular leaf: an ivy leaf. But yes, look closely. We see on this page this shape becoming universal, with two curves meeting and its point at the end.
Ivy leaves. | Floraf by Unsplash
That’s all well and good, but why ivy, like you? In ancient Greece, ivy actually directly resonated with Dionysus, god of wine, but also with excessive pleasures, especially those of the flesh. Add to that the famous reputation of this plant, which was once praised for its resistance and its long life, and it gives us a delicious mixture of warm and lasting love. It is therefore not surprising to find these ivy leaves, sometimes attached to vines, drawn almost anywhere in Greek and then Roman vases, making this symbol last.
It’s for form. But what about the heart, really? The trembling, the beating? He is also already associated with many symbols. Among the Romans, we feel the feeling of love directly in the “horn” or “pectus”, explains France Culture. In other words, in the chest, where the heart is.
Middle Ages, strong love
Finally we have to wait for the Middle Ages to see the shape of the parts of the heart as we know it today. Chivalric love, courtly love, poetry … amorous passion is boiling in this period of history. We sing it, we celebrate it and, of course, we represent it.
In the beginning, we continued to maintain this link between love and leaves. This is why we find, for example, Medieval scenes of lovers under a lime tree weaving ropes, which, in the background, is this idea of symbolic connection. But slowly, the heart under our chest ended up taking up all the space. In him are feelings, love and affection.
As it is in XIVe century, we see the first illustrations of the heart seen as a symbol of love, reports the Wall Street Journal. Well, obviously, we feel like the artists are still gripping their style.
Just look at the oldest modern representation of the heart known to date, derived from a French manuscript dated from the 1340s, entitled The Roman of Alexander. We see a woman holding a heart in her hand, which then looks like some kind of large pear, even like a tooth. In its full version, a man faces her, touching her chest, as if indicating the origin of this gift.
illustration of novel by alexander. | PKM via Wikimedia Commons
Like this illustration, the drawings of hearts are halfway between their realistic form and their contemporary form, which we use today, while taking inspiration from the aesthetics of the ivy leaf. . A little coarse, not very attractive, it is symmetrical and the two lobes are clearly defined.
Its success is dazzling. We use this modern representation in the dress of nobles, in all sorts of manuscripts and even in stamps-like that of Martin Luther, where a bright red heart sits in the middle of a white rose, note France 24. that its parts have everything pleasing: easy to draw, the heart is made of two strong and equal halves, perfectly harmonious, and whose curves are reminiscent of sensual parts of the body. in man, such as the fist or chest.
The evolution of our anatomical knowledge cannot change anything. Although we know that the hearts we represent bear little resemblance to the real human heart, the symbol is already firmly anchored. To the point that now, we don’t really care.