It's that time of year again when Claire Basler opens her doors ~ portes ouvertes ~ to the public. If you've never been to France in May you've never really experienced spring time. To enhance the enchantment among the blooming canvases and murals of Claire Basler would be heavenly!
Where did the graphical shape representing the heart come from? When was it first used? Why that shape? Why the color red? From the Wikipedia page for the manuscript Roman de la Poire:
"..the kneeling man is an allegory of Doux Regard ("sweet gaze") handing the damsel the lover's heart. This is the earliest known depiction of the human heart in a metaphorical context signifying "romantic love", which over the next two centuries would give rise to the now-familiar heart symbol."
Here is another excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Roman de la Poire (Romance of the Pear):
"The title is derived from a central scene where the damsel shares a pear which she has peeled with her teeth with the lover."
So in the illustration above, is her lover handing her a pear? That would suggest that the pear is an early origin of a romantic symbol of heart, drawing from this medieval text.
Ancient silver coin from Cyrene depicting a seed of Silphium
There have been many theories about the origin of the heart symbol, including, as mentioned in this excerpt from the same Wiki page:
"...the shape of the seed of the silphium plant, used in ancient times as an herbal contraceptive, and stylized depictions of features of the human female body, such as the female's buttocks, pubic mound, or spread vulva."
Besides being the symbol for romantic love, the origin of the shape as a general symbol of the heart is theorized to come from the shape of a leaf, as outlined here from the Heart Symbol website (a great read):
"There is a bulbous, baked-clay goblet in the Museum of Kabul in Afghanistan which dates from the first half of the 3rd millenium B.C., depicting stylized fig leaves with broad stems. This decoration can be found on later ceramics of neighbouring cultures. As well as other vegetal decorations there appear these same fig leaves - and later ivy leaves - which anticipate the modern heart shape."
"...the ivy leaf symbolizes eternal love, i.e. love beyond the grave."
"...in paintings of the 12th and 13th centuries, ivy leaves appeared in love scenes, before long in red - the colour of warm blood, which had signified good luck, health and love since prehistoric times."