[Tidbits] The Winged Putto

The Winged Putto

Di-dit. Di-di-dit. Attention attention world. Dr. Bizzarro is
back…and he brings with him…this time…the Winged Putto. Let us
start, why don’t we…with The Random House Dictionary of English
Usage. “Putto: A representation of a cherubic infant, often show
winged.” From the Latin ‘putus’ which means boy. Let us not forget
the “boy” part here folks. It plays a role.

Usually my friends…our little cherub is shown with an innocent and
angelic look on his face. Not so mine. Anybody can do angelic and
sweet and innocent. But a little strange… perhaps even a little
haunting…perhaps even a little offbeat …now that requires
research. Or luck. For me–though I would like to take credit for
more–it was luck. Opened a book and there it was.

Throughout history cherubs were used in art…as well as in jewelry.
The graphic I have hoisted up for all of you to see is a silver
hatpin of a winged Putto created circa 1890. But silver hatpin
aside…time period aside…the slight strangeness of our little
fellow aside…I began to wonder about the language of the thing. So I
went into the Oxford English Dictionary…the quintessential authority
on the English Language. And the OED pretty much said the same thing
as did Random House. Putti…it added…is the plural of Putto. One
Putto …two Putti…for those of you interested.

So now–and I know I’m going to get into trouble for this–let us
extrapolate a bit…shall we? Though I am going to show you a graphic
of a silver Putto…I thought I’d play of game of conjecture …and
see where jewelry…when brought in conjunction with language …would
or could lead us.

Which brings us to the word “Whore”. Not a nice word…in any sense.
Still…a bit interesting. Listen. In Spanish…the word for whore is
Puta. In Spanish…a word ending in “a” feminizes a word ending in
“o”. Puto: masculine…Puta: feminine. Funny…is it not…how Puta
and Putto resemble each other. Want to know the word in Italian? Hmmm?
Well folks…it’s Puttana. Anyone see a pattern developing here? Is a
Putto a cherub…or is it not a cherub? French…mes amis? Try
Putain. Etymologically speaking…and I’m the first to admit I know
nothing of foreign language etymology …though French is my mother
tongue…it would appear that Putto may not have the sweet beginnings
we might have conjectured it did.

So…I have to ask myself these two questions…and they are based on
the extraordinary resemblance between Putto and the other words.
Is…or was…a cherub originally a benevolent creature. And more
important…is or was a “whore” originally applicable to a
female…or was it originally applicable to a male? These are the
things I ponder in the dead of night while the world sleeps.

Why this whole diatribe? Why not? We could all take an optimistic
view and say that it’s meant to educate and show one an all the
interesting paths down which Jewelry can lead us. Actually…I like
that reason. Yeah. That’s it. That’s why I brought it up. Nothing to
do with the perverseness in my nature at all. Nothing at all. So
now…for those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may
I direct you to my home page at www.tyler-adam.com where you will
scroll down the table menu till you get to the box that says
Tidbits…and inside the box where it says Tidbit Graphics…click on
the link that says: Putto…where you will see a rendering of our
adorable little…?

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark

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Usually my friends...our little cherub is shown with an innocent and
angelic look on his face. Not so  mine. Anybody can do angelic and
sweet and innocent. But a little strange... perhaps even a little
haunting...perhaps even a little offbeat ...now that requires

The main lounge at Flagler College (built as Flagler Hotel) in St.
Augustine, FL has an interesting form of trompe l’oeil on the
ceiling: a large painting of cherubs. The interest derives from
there being one central cherub who looks totally angelic when viewed
from the side toward the main entrance, and totally satanic when
viewed from the fireplace side. Angels (including cherubs) do not
have gender as we recognize it.

Dear Benjamin: You are right…it is a strange subject for this
format, however, you are never too young to ask…WHY? Everything you
said in your note is true. But you need to start back at the beginning
of your note. Latin being the base language, ‘putus’ would be the
correct origination of your word ‘Putto.’ Keeping that in mind, let us
follow through with the fact that there have always been ‘whores’
(crude word but nonetheless correct). Even from the earliest times
these ‘whores’ were usually young (male or female) and were scantily
dressed, probably in drape type garments. One might quess that they
might have been nicknamed ‘Putto’, or another form of that name as
time and languages changed. In some French art work of the 17th and
18th century you could often see young men and women attending court
dressed in ‘Putto’ attire. And if I remember my Art History classes
right, those cherubic figures were ( whores). So, in conclusion,
‘Putus’ was first, probably followed by "Putto’, then came the ever
popular ‘Putain & Puta’. Do you ask these questions very often?
P.Clement Newbee to Orchid