# Heart (symbol)

Standard form of the heart symbol
A heart symbol pierced with an arrow, symbolizing romantic love (being lovestruck, or the pain of lovesickness)
A typical depiction of the Sacred Heart (often shown with other attributes, e.g. surmounted by a cross, pierced by nails or swords, etc.)

The heart symbol or "heart shape" () is an ideograph used to express the idea of the "heart" in its metaphorical or symbolic sense as the center of emotion, including love, especially (but not exclusively) romantic love.

The "wounded heart" indicating love sickness came to be depicted as a heart symbol pierced with an arrow (Cupid's), or heart symbol "broken" in two or more pieces. The use of the heart symbol as a logograph for the English verb "to love" derives from the use in "I ♥ NY", introduced in 1977.[1]

## Origin

The earliest known visual depiction of a lover handing his heart to the beloved lady, in a manuscript of the Roman de la poire, mid-13th century.
Andrea Pisano's Charity (c. 1337), holding a heart in her right hand.

The combination of the "heart shape" and its significance of the "heart" metaphor develops at the end of the Middle Ages. With possible early examples or direct predecessors in the 13th to 14th century, the familiar symbol of the heart representing love develops in the 15th century, and becomes widely popular in the 16th.[2] Before the 14th century, the "heart shape" was not associated with the meaning of the "heart" metaphor. The geometric shape itself is found in much earlier sources, but in such instances does not depict a "heart", but typically foliage, in examples from antiquity fig leaves, and in medieval iconography and heraldry typically the leaves of ivy and of the water-lily.

The first known depiction of a heart as a symbol of romantic love dates to the 1250s. It occurs in a miniature decorating a capital S in a manuscript of the French Roman de la poire (National Library FR MS. 2086, plate 12). In the miniature, a kneeling lover offers his heart to a damsel. The heart resembles a pine-cone (held "upside-down", the point facing upward), in accord with medieval anatomical descriptions.[3] Giotto in his 1305 painting in the Scrovegni Chapel (Padua) shows an allegory of charity handing her heart to Christ, and this heart is depicted in the pine-cone shape based on anatomical descriptions (still held "upside-down"). Giotto's painting exerted considerable influence on later painters, and the motive of Caritas offering a heart is shown by Taddeo Gaddi in Santa Croce, by Andrea Pisano on the bronze door of the south porch of the Baptisterium in Florence (c. 1337), by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Publico in Sienna (c. 1340) and by Andrea da Firenze in Santa Maria Novella in Florence (c. 1365). The convention of showing the heart point-upward switches in the late 14th century and becomes rare in the first half of the 15th century.[3]

The "scalloped" shape of the now-familiar heart symbol, with a dent in its base, first arises in the early 14th century, at first only lightly dented, as in the miniatures in Francesco Barberino's Documenti d'amore (before 1320); a slightly later example with a more pronounced dent is found in a manuscript from the Cistercian monastery in Brussels (MS 4459–70, fol 192v. Royal Library of Belgium). The convention of showing a dent at the base of the heart thus spread at about the same time as the convention of showing the heart with its point downward.[4]

Various hypotheses attempted to connect the "heart shape" as it evolved in the late medieval period with instances of the geometric shape in antiquity.[5] Such theories are modern, proposed from the 1960s onward, and they remain speculative, as no continuity between the supposed ancient predecessors and the late medieval tradition can be shown. Specific suggestions include: the shape of the seed of the silphium plant, used in ancient times as an herbal contraceptive,[5][6] and stylized depictions of features of the human female body, such as the female's buttocks, pubic mound, or spread vulva.[7]

## Historical use

The Luther rose was the seal that was designed for Martin Luther at the behest of Prince John Frederick, in 1530, while Luther was staying at the Coburg Fortress during the Diet of Augsburg. Luther wrote gave an explanation of the symbol to Lazarus Spengler: "a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. 'For one who believes from the heart will be justified' (Romans 10:10)."

The "hearts" suit now standard in the "French" style playing card decks first appear from around 1470. There is great fluctuation in the suits used in the playing cards of this period, and it isn't clear that the examples from the 1470s were already intended as "hearts" (appearing as they do alongside other forms of foliage, now known as the "clubs" and "spades"), but the suit seems to have been re-interpreted as "hearts" by the first half of the 16th century at least.[8]

The aorta remains visible, as a protrusion at the top centered between the two "chambers" indicated in the symbol, in some depictions of the Sacred Heart well into the 18th century, and is partly still shown today (although mostly obscured by elements such as a crown, flames, rays, or a cross) but the "hearts" suit did not have this element since the 15th century.

Since the 19th century, the symbol has often been used on St. Valentine's Day cards, candy boxes, and similar popular culture artifacts as a symbol of romantic love.

## Heraldry

"heart field" or "heart shield" are terms for an inescutcheon placed en surtout.

The earliest "heart-shaped" charges in heraldry appear in the 12th century; the hearts in the coat of arms of Denmark go back to the royal banner of the kings of Denmark, in turn based on a seal used as early as the 1190s. However, while the charges are clearly "heart-shaped", they did not in origin depict hearts, or symbolize any idea related to "love". Instead, they are assumed to have depicted the leaves of the water-lily. Early heraldic "heart-shaped" charges depicting the leaves of waterlilies are found in various other designs related to territories close to rivers or a coastline (c.f. Flags of Frisia).

Inverted heart symbols have been used in heraldry as stylized testicles (coglioni in Italian) as in the canting arms of the Colleoni family of Milan.[9]

A seal attributed to William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas (created 1358) shows a heart shape, identified as the heart of Robert the Bruce. The authenticity of this seal is "very questionable",[10] i.e. it could possibly date to the late 14th or the 15th century.[11]

Heraldic charges actually representing hearts become more common in the early modern period, with the Sacred Heart depicted in ecclesiastical heraldry, and hearts representing love in bourgeois coats of arms. Hearts later also become popular elements in municipal coats of arms.

## Encoding

A common emoticon for the heart is <3. In Unicode several heart symbols are available:

Glyph Description HTML code Alt codes
U+2661 WHITE HEART SUIT &#x2661; or &#9825;
U+2665 BLACK HEART SUIT &#x2665; or &#9829; or &hearts; Alt + 3
U+2764 HEAVY BLACK HEART &#x2764;
U+2765 ROTATED HEAVY BLACK HEART BULLET &#x2765;
U+2763 HEAVY HEART EXCLAMATION MARK ORNAMENT &#x2763;

And from the Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs range associated with emoji:

Glyph Description HTML code Alt codes
💑 U+1F491 COUPLE WITH HEART &#x1f491;
💓 U+1F493 BEATING HEART &#x1f493;
💔 U+1F494 BROKEN HEART &#x1f494;
💕 U+1F495 TWO HEARTS &#x1f495;
💖 U+1F496 SPARKLING HEART &#x1f496;
💗 U+1F497 GROWING HEART &#x1f497;
💘 U+1F498 HEART WITH ARROW &#x1f498;
💙 U+1F499 BLUE HEART &#x1f499;
💚 U+1F49A GREEN HEART &#x1f49a;
💛 U+1F49B YELLOW HEART &#x1f49b;
💜 U+1F49C PURPLE HEART &#x1f49c;

In Code page 437, the original character set of the IBM PC, the value of 3 (hexadecimal 03) represents the heart symbol. This value is shared with the non-printing ETX control character, which overrides the glyph in many contexts.

## Parametrisation

There are several mathematical descriptions that result in approximately heart-shaped curves. The best-known of these is the cardioid, which is an epicycloid with one cusp.[13] Other curves, such as the implicit curve (x2+y2−1)3−x2y3=0, may produce better approximations of the heart shape.[14]

A cardioid generated by a rolling circle
(animated)
Implicit heart curve
(x2 + y2 − 1)3 − x2y3 = 0
Parametric plot of the curve

$\textstyle\binom{16\sin^{\scriptscriptstyle 3}t}{13\cos{}t-5\cos2t-2\cos3t-\cos4t}$
Implicit heart surface

## References

1. ^ reference to parodistic use: Mother Jones Magazine May 1987, p. 53.
2. ^ Kemp (2011), 96-99.
3. ^ a b Vinken (2001).
4. ^ Vinken (2001): "The change from the spherical to the scalloped form of the heart base happened more or less in train with the differing way in which the heart was held, and has dominated visual representations of the heart ever since."
5. ^ a b The Shape of My Heart: Where did the ubiquitous Valentine's symbol come from? by Keelin McDonell, Slate.com, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007.
6. ^ Sowing the seeds of love, The Age, by Luke Benedictus, February 12, 2006; use as contraceptive: Pliny the Elder, XXII, Ch. 49
7. ^ proposed by Gloria Steinem in the 1998 introduction to the Vagina Monologues online copy; "For example, the shape we call a heart—whose symmetry resembles the vulva far more than the asymmetry of the organ that shares its name—is probably a residual female genital symbol. It was reduced from power to romance by centuries of male dominance.", based on an earlier suggestion by Tanzer (1969) that the shape was used as a symbol indicating brothels in ancient Pompeii). Tanzer (1969). The Common People of Pompeii. A study of the graffiti. With illustrations and a map
8. ^ here is some linkrot: gamesmuseum.uwaterloo.ca, i-p-c-s.org [1] antiquemapsandprints.com, obviously more research is needed here.[unreliable source?]
9. ^ Woodward, John and George Burnett (1969). Woodward's a treatise on heraldry, British and foreign, page 203. Originally published 1892, Edinburgh: W. & A. B. Johnson. ISBN 0-7153-4464-1. LCCN 02-20303
10. ^ McAndrew, Scotland's Historic Heraldry, 2006, p. 141
11. ^ McAndrew 2006, p. 213.
12. ^ C. Weyers in: Stengel (ed.), Archiv für Diplomatik: Schriftgeschichte, Siegel, und Wappenkunde, Volume 54, 2008, p. 100.
13. ^ Weisstein, Eric W., "Cardioid" from MathWorld.
14. ^
• Martin Kemp, "The Heart" in Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Icon, Oxford University Press, 2011, 81-113.
• P. J. Vinken (2000), The Shape of the Heart: A Contribution to the Iconology of the Heart (illustrated ed.), Elsevier Health Sciences, ISBN 978-0-444-82987-0
• Vinken, P (2001), "How the heart was held in medieval art", The Lancet 358 (9299): 2155–2157, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(01)07224-5, PMID 11784647