|"Cherub" is a Hebrew word meaning
, with the plural being "cherubim" (although this is commonly written as "cherubs" or "cherubims" in English translations). "Putti" is the plural form of the Italian word "putto," which means
These roly-poly figures may look identical, but their different names reveal a great divide between them. They are commonly seen twice a year: around Valentine's Day and during the Christmas season. Each appearance reveals the complicated and varied history of the modern "cherub." The playful putti (especially Cupid himself) are connected to Valentine's Day, while the charming cherubim are part of the Christmas season.
This divide started to blur during the Renaissance when artists began looking back at the art of ancient Greece and Rome, then recycling and repurposing the symbols they found there. Artists such as Donatello, Giotto, Raphael and Michelangelo used the pudgy putti interchangeably with the chubby cherubim.
They were sometimes depicted as heads with wings, to show that they were spirits, incorporeal (that is, literally, without a body), yet clearly intelligent and connected to the spirit world. Other depictions showed children acting in unchildlike ways such as wearing armor to stand in protection over other figures, racing chariots, playing harps, gambling and so on. Their actions hinted at the sacred--or non-sacred--theme of the art piece and let you know whether they were cherubim or putti.
|Cherubim were used in religious paintings to symbolize purity and the presence of divinity. Used in art with metaphorical or mythological themes, the putti were far less innocent: they were frequently symbols of fertility and erotic love.
After the Renaissance, artists during the Baroque period blurred the lines even more. By the time the Victorian age rolled around, the line was almost completely abolished. The Victorian love of sentimentality had made the pudgy putti and the chubby cherub almost interchangeable, with both sporting little white loincloths to match their wings.
You can add the charm of the cherub (or the pleasure of the putti) to jewelry lines using a selection of drops, links, charms and components. Add a cherubic charm to angel designs, or create pieces using plenty of putti to inspire love. Use Omni-Gel™ or ICE Resin® to place Raphael's famous cherubs on jewelry or home décor items. You can play along the edge of the difference between these adorable sometimes innocent, sometimes mischievous little beings.
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