Love’s Symbol

Where does the iconic heart shape come from?
Although the shape of a heart may have originated sometime in the 1300s, today that shape beats strong, especially at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Royal Oak, where this mosaic heart was created. Read more about how you can hang one of these in your home in this issue’s Bulletin Board section. // Photograph by Hayden Stinebaugh

February, cupid’s favorite month, slips into the year bringing heart symbols aplenty, on everything from sweet little candies to lovers’ doodles. The endearing heart shape even is showcased on fabrics and in home décor. So where does the symmetrical, curvy/pointy silhouette come from? Some say the modern heart shape appears to have showed up in the 14th century, and was based on an illustration that accompanied an Italian poem; the artwork depicted cupid standing on the back of a galloping horse throwing arrows, roses, and scalloped-shaped hearts at bystanders. Shortly after the poem’s publication, the scalloped heart took off in the world of art and began to appear in tapestries, as well. During Hearts for Art (Valentine’s week) at The Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, staff hands out hearts and asks visitors to leave them by their favorite piece of work.  “We embrace the iconography of hearts with this annual event,” says Kelly Lyons, the museum’s curator of education. “Our galleries are filled with these hearts, alongside artwork showcased for its Valentine-themed iconography, including Jim Dine’s The Heart at Sea (in a Non-Secular Way).”