Putto  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A putto (plural putti) is a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude and sometimes winged. Putti are distinct from cherubim, but some English-speakers confuse them with each other, except that in the plural, "the Cherubim" refers to the biblical angels. While "cherubs" represent the second order of angels, putti are secular, profane and present a non-religious passion. However, in the Baroque period of art, the putto came to represent the omnipresence of God. A putto representing a cupid is also called an amorino (plural amorini).

Contents

Revival of the putto in the Renaissance

Putti are a classical motif found primarily on child sarcophagi of the 2nd century, where they are depicted fighting, dancing, participating in bacchic rites, playing sports, etc.

During the Middle Ages, the putto disappeared and was revived during the Quattrocento.The revival of the figure of the putto is generally attributed to Donatello, in Florence in the 1420s, although there are some earlier manifestations (for example the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia in Lucca). Donatello reinvented putto in the Renaissance. Since then, Donatello has been called the originator of the putto because of the contribution to art he made in restoring the classical form of putto. He gave putto a distinct character by infusing the form with Christian meanings and using it in new contexts such as musician angels.

Where to find putti

Putti, cupids, and angels (see below) can be found in both religious and secular art from the 1420s in Italy, the turn of the 16th century in the Netherlands and Germany, the Mannerist period and late Renaissance in France, and throughout Baroque ceiling frescoes. So many artists have depicted them that a list would be pointless, but among the best-known are the sculptor Donatello and the painter Raphael. The two relaxed and curious putti who appear at the foot of Raphael's Sistine Madonna are often reproduced.

They also experienced a major revival in the 19th century, where they gamboled through paintings by French academic painters, from Gustave Doré’s illustrations for Orlando Furioso to advertisements.

In the twentieth century, putti appeared in Walt Disney's Fantasia.

Iconography of the putto

The iconography of putti is deliberately unfixed, so that it is difficult to tell the difference between putti, cupids, and various forms of angels. They have no unique, immediately identifiable attributes, so that putti may have many meanings and roles in the context of art.

Some of the more common associations are:

  • Associations with Aphrodite, and so with romantic – or erotic – love
  • Associations with Heaven
  • Associations with peace, prosperity, mirth, and leisure

Putti in popular culture

A putto is the main character in the 2010 webcomic The Sorrowful Putto of Prague by James Stafford and A. J. Bernardo.

In popular culture, putto is also used as a decorative art found on buildings, gardens, and greeting cards as a purveyor of love.

In the British tv series Doctor Who, infants of the species The Weeping Angels appear as putti.

Historiography

The historiography of this subject matter is very short. Many art historians have commented on the importance of the putto in art but few have undertaken a major study. One useful scholarly examination is Charles Dempsey's Inventing the Renaissance Putto.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Putto" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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