The heart assumed its modern form by the Renaissance but its symbolic meaning was still more sacred than secular: it represented faith more than mere mortal love. And much more so than love, faith must be schooled and tested in order to strengthen: consequently hearts in emblem books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries feature hearts that are not only broken but chained, beaten, scourged, wounded, pierced, and set on fire, mimicking and memorializing the suffering of Christ and his love. The heart is hardly the only featured symbol in emblem books, which were incredibly popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when print accommodated a semi-literate population, but it was certainly a prominent one. Emblems were made up of three components: a title or motto (inscriptio), an image (pictura) and an explanatory text in either prose or verse (subscriptio), and the combination of words and pictures could appeal to a wider audience.Some titles become standardized, included The school of the heart, or, The heart of it self gone away from God, brought back again to him, and instructed by him = in 47 emblems, a very popular English emblem title. My alternative Valentine’s Day hearts are from an Italian variant of the School of the Heart: Francesco Pona’s Cardiomorphoseos Sive Ex Corde Desvmpta Emblemata Sacra (1645). Pona’s illustrations are just a bit more….charming than those in the other books of this genre, if you can call an image of cupid carving up a heart charming! So here you see the origins of today’s cute Cupid with his bow: tough love, indeed.
The Heart emerges whole and strengthened from its Trials and Travails, preparing one to ACT COURAGEOUSLY. Mottoes and images from Francesco Pona’s Cardiomorphoseos.