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12 Unique Symbols of Love in Art History

Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Thank you to our friends at Invaluable for allowing us to share this wonderful article on love.

12 Unique Symbols of Love in Art History

John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, “Love and the Maiden,” 1877. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we explore some of the most decorated love symbols from a variety of cultures, each of which bears its own origin and meaning.

Apple

The Judgment of Paris painting with people around an apple

Peter Paul Rubens, “The Judgment of Paris” (detail), c. 1639. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Apples appear in many different religious traditions, and though each have their own distinct reference, they all depict the fruit as a symbol of love, desire, and abundance. In Greek mythology, the apple serves as a prominent symbol of courtship. It is said that Gaia, the Primordial Goddess of Nature, gave apples to Hera during her wedding to signify lasting love and eternal union. Gratified couples as far back as the 7th century B.C. would share apples at their weddings in hopes of a fruitful, bonded relationship.

In Norse mythology, many would eat apples from the garden of the goddess of youth, Iðunn, in attempt to ward of disease and retain their beauty. In Chinese culture, apple blossoms represent adoration.

Claddagh

Gold Claddagh ring. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Claddagh symbol is most prominently fashioned into Celtic rings, but appears in other forms of jewelry as well. The symbol is associated with the Irish folktale of Claddagh, a village outside the city of Galway, in which a young man named Richard, who was out fishing with his family, was captured by pirates and forced into slavery. According to the tale, Richard was constrained to work for a goldsmith where he inevitably learned the craft. Everyday he stole a speck of gold that he intended to use to make a ring for his beloved back home, Margaret.

As the legend goes, Richard eventually saved up enough gold specks to craft a ring, in hopes of someday presenting it to his loved one. When he finally escaped, he returned to give the beautiful ring to Margaret, who accepted it lovingly. The Claddagh symbol has three components: a crown, which symbolizes loyalty, two hands, which represent a bonded friendship, and a heart, which denotes love.

Cupid

Cupid painting with angel

“Disarming Cupid” by Guillaume Seignac. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The likeness of Cupid — a young boy, armed with a bow and arrow which he uses to pierce people’s hearts so that they fall desperately in love — has become a symbol synonymous with Valentine’s Day.

In Greek mythology, he was known as Eros, the son of Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty). In Roman mythology, Cupid is the god of love, son of Venus and Mars. Often, he is depicted in art as a blindfolded figure, which is meant to represent love’s blindness.

Dove

Dove illustration by Picasso

Pablo Picasso, Dove of Peace, c. 1961. Ed. 83/150. Sold for $6,875 via Heritage Auctions (February 2017).

Doves have long been considered symbols of love and peace. Along with their cooing and bowing courting rituals, doves mate for a lifetime, which has come to symbolize fidelity. Often, a depiction of two doves together translates to everlasting, eternal love. In Greek and Roman mythology, doves were sacred animals, and many depictions of the goddess of love featured the white birds fluttering around their bodies.

Harp

Idun and Brage painting of couple with harp

Nils Blommér, “Idun and Brage,” 1846. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The harp is another ancient symbol of love that bears a variety of meanings across different cultures. In Celtic culture, the harp represents a bridge of love, connecting heaven and earth. In Norway and Iceland, it is believed that the strings of the harp form a ladder, which symbolizes the ascent to higher states of love. Harps have also been used prominently in love songs due to their gentle, cascading sound characteristics.

Jasmine

This aromatic white flower is a powerful symbol of love, especially within the Hindu religion. Its significance is believed to have originated in the foothills of the Himalayas, considered sacred ground in India. Hindu goddesses are often depicted wearing garlands of Jasmine, with the distinctly white petals symbolizing purity.

Kokopelli

Pottery with Kokopelli motif

Southwest Painted Pottery Bowl, Acoma, Lucy Lewis, c. second half 20th century, with black geometric and Kokopelli devices. Sold for $326 via Skinner (January 2009).

Kokopelli is a musically talented fertility deity with roots in Native American culture. He is depicted with a plumed headdress while blowing his flute, and has appeared in pottery, cave art, and folklore dating back thousands of years. The love-flute that Kokopelli carries was said to be used by a man to attract his maiden, and was destroyed by the two after they were married. Kokopelli symbolizes a range of subjects including fertility, courtship, and matrimony.

Love Knot

Enamel brooch featuring a knot detail

Silver and Enamel Brooch. Sold for £375 via Lyon & Turnbull (October 2018).

The Celtic love knot is an ancient symbol that represents eternal love through an interlacing design which seemingly has no beginning or end. The intertwining design also represents the binding of two souls. The love knot originated around the 3rd century B.C., first appearing in works of art from the Roman Empire. The motif was later adapted by the Christians around 450 A.D. to adorn illuminated manuscripts and incorporate into the designs of high crosses. Today, it is still a commonly used design for Celtic wedding rings.

Maple Leaf

woodblock painting featuring maple leaf

Woodblock Print by Hiroshige. Sold for £812.5 via Chiswick Auctions (September 2018).

The maple leaf is an ancient symbol of love, most notably in China and Japan. Like the sweet sap from its tree, which ultimately produces maple syrup, maple leaves represent the sweetness and wonder of love in daily life. The tree’s leaves became a popular motif in Japanese ukiyo-e art, a style of woodblock print and painting that flourished during the Edo period, when artists focused on depicting the sensory pleasures of life.

Osram Ne Nsoromma

Adinkra is a cotton cloth produced in West Africa which has traditional Akan symbols stamped on it. These symbols represent popular proverbs, often conveying more meaning than a single word can. Osram Ne Nsoromma is one of those symbols, and it consists of a star and half moon. The moon and star together represent the harmony that exists in the relationship between a man and a woman, and serves as a symbol of love.

Rose

The Hampden Portrait

Steven van der Meulen, “The Hampden Portrait,” circa 1563. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Ancient Greek and Roman cultures associated roses with Aphrodite and Venus, respectively; both goddesses of love. Since, roses have been recognized as symbols of love and beauty. Each color rose has further meaning:

  • Yellow: joyful love
  • Red: passionate love
  • Pink: true love
  • White: innocence and purity

Shell

Birth of Venus Painting

Sandro Botticelli, “The Birth of Venus,” 1484-1485. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Like many other symbols of love, shells, and conch shells in particular, are one of the main objects associated with Aphrodite, goddess of love. Many kinds of seashells have come to be associated with the protectiveness of love, as their hardened casing protects the precious pearl that grows inside the shell of a mollusk.

Throughout history, different cultures have depicted love and affection through an array of symbols. Many representations, like the Irish claddagh, derive from ancient mythology and cultural folklore. Today, these talismans offer storied objects, thoughtful gift ideas, and meaningful ways to show affection.

SourcesForbes | SlideShare | Fact Retriever | Ancient Pages | ThoughtCo. | Keen

From Greek mythology to Hindu motifs, cultures around the world have used a range of symbols to represent love in Eastern and Western art. Beyond the traditional hearts and roses, there are many lesser-known emblems that have come to symbolize love. Today, symbols of love are used in a variety of industries and disciplines including the visual and performing arts, antiques—even greeting cards.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we explore some of the most decorated love symbols from a variety of cultures, each of which bears its own origin and meaning.

Wedding Planner Needed: Shrinking Violets need not apply

by Danielle Andrews

There are many skills needed to be a successful Wedding Planner; amazing organization, great communication, fantastic connections, a great eye, knowledge of the latest trends, but one of the least mentioned skills is having a backbone of steel.

Financial Planning for Wedding Business Growth

Growing your wedding business is essential in becoming a successful professional in the field. Financial planning is crucial in the growth of your business, and it will set you up for positive results. Follow these tips to bring your wedding business to the next level!

Map out Your Expenses

When you’re a wedding business professional, you have to track your expenses closely to keep your business successful. A business takes a lot of investment in the beginning to become prosperous, so consider taking out a personal loan to help build some traction. Once you start making an income from your business, you want to map out what your annual expenses are so that you can do more than just break even on the weddings you work on. In order for your business to thrive, you want to make enough to live comfortably. Use an expense tracking app or a spreadsheet to help control your finances and keep you on the right track.

Build a Reliable Team

A big financial investment you’ll want to make for your wedding business is in your team. If you have anyone else helping you with your wedding business, you want to spend your time and money on the people who deserve it and who will help you accomplish your business goals. If you have yet to find your perfect team, follow tips on how to hire the right people. You’ll want to have an experienced team beside you to help with every detail of your business, so choose people who have expertise in the field so that things continue to run smoothly.

Charge Accordingly

In order to make a profit from your business, you’ll have to charge the correct amount to your clients. Compare yourself to what other professionals are charging to give you an idea of how to price your services. You want to be competitive with others within the industry, but you also don’t want to overcharge or undercharge. If you overcharge, you won’t get the proper number of clients you need to keep up your business. If you don’t charge enough, you won’t break even on your expenses and you won’t be able to make money from your business.

Network with other Professionals

To build up your business, it’s important to establish relationships with other wedding professionals. Take the time to attend wedding shows near you to network with vendors such as venues, photographers, and florists. If you have great relationships with the best professionals in the field, you’ll be able to give your clients exactly what you’re looking for. Once you work with certain vendors enough, talk to them about giving your clients a special discount.

Build your Brand

Building your brand is essential in the growth of your wedding business. First, spend the money on a professional website with a unique domain. Your website will often be the first impression your potential clients have of you. Spend the time to make sure your domain represents your business in the right way. Use social media as a way to grow your business. Pay for sponsored Instagram and Facebook ads, and keep up on posting interesting content. Social media will play a huge role in reaching as many people in your local area as possible. Another great way to invest in yourself and your business is to take wedding professional courses. When you equip yourself with the proper knowledge on how to run a business, you’ll be more qualified and credible to your customers.


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