Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the heart has been associated with the concept of love – after all, your heart beats faster in the presence of a romantic interest. But where did the familiar heart symbol come from?
The second-century Greek physician Galen believed the heart was shaped like a pinecone – a view which carried into the Middle Ages, when the heart first found its visual form as the symbol of love. Plato argued for the dominant role of the chest in love and in negative emotions of fear, anger, rage, and pain. Aristotle expanded the role of the heart even further, granting it supremacy in all human processes.
The earliest illustrations of the heart symbol was created around 1250 in a French allegory called “The Romance of the Pear,” pictured a heart that looks like a pinecone, eggplant or pear, with its narrow end pointed upward and its wider, lower part held in a human hand.
In 1344, the first known image of the indubitable heart icon with two lobes and a point appeared in “The Romance of Alexander,” which is one of the great medieval picture books.
The scene containing the heart image shows a woman raising a heart that she has presumably received from the man facing her. She accepts the gift, while he touches his breast to indicate the place from which it has come. From this moment on, there was an explosion of heart imagery, particularly in France.