Putting on the Putti


By Karen Parr-Moody




Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Cupid is shooting his bow around GasLamp. He is found on many items, from vases to portrait lamps to German prints. 


In Roman mythology, Cupid was the son of Venus and Mars. In painting and sculpture, Cupid is portrayed as a nude, or as a winged boy or baby armed with a bow and arrows. The proper name, when Cupid is seen in art as a young child or baby, is the Italian word “putto” (plural is “putti”).


Putti have their roots deep in ancient art, but were revived in 15th century Italy, and figure largely in both Italian Renaissance and Baroque art. The artist Donatello is generally credited with the figure’s rebirth. They are found in religious and secular art of the Renaissance period, in painting, sculpture, and also in ceiling frescoes. Many artists depicted putti, and many are oft reproduced, such as those from Raphael’s famous oil painting, “Sistine Madonna.”


More recently there was a revival during the 19th century, as putti frolicked through everything from French paintings to product advertisements.


It was during the Victorian era that the putti landed on this pink vase of Austrian porcelain, above right ($60; Booth B-109). Such porcelain was renowned for its beauty in its day, and continues to be collectible. It represents a historic break for Germany and Austria in the early 1700s; it was then that two factories were founded in those countries to produce hard paste porcelain in Europe. Up to that point, such fine porcelain was only made in Japan and China, and was imported.


This Royal Vienna portrait lamp, left, is downright wanton in its details ($235; Booth B-225). It has a marble base, a gorgeous pattern of hand-painted sections, and in the middle, a portrait of a sleeping lady with a putto hovering above her. Portraits of this kind became popular during the 1800s, staying so through the early 20th century. Many Austrian and Bavarian firms produced both hand painted and transfer portraits on porcelain, not just at the renowned Imperial and Royal Porcelain Manufactory. Due to this, collectors commonly refer to portrait lamps and vases by all Viennese makers as “Royal Vienna.”



Another type of porcelain is the Italian form of Capodimonte (literally “Top of the Hill”), which made its debut on the heels of German and Austrian porcelain. Such porcelain was produced in Naples, Italy, from 1759 to 1780, at the Royal Factory. The lamp shown here, right, while from a later time period, is a Capodimonte lamp is graced by a putto, one on either side (pair, $189; Booth B-106).


Germany has a storied history of printing. The first woodcuts ever printed on paper were German playing cards, printed at the beginning of the 15th century. Then, historically, German inventor Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press around 1439. Today, when looking for vintage printed materials, it is always fun to find more recent prints from Germany, such as the darling putti in these prints, left ($30 each; Booth B-231). The colors are always unusual. These prints feature milky tones of butter yellow, pale blue, and grey, accented by a vibrant coral that makes them pop. The vintage metal frames are a bonus.


This flirty statue, right, has the childlike features of a putto, but he has a slightly naughty look about him. Historically, “cherubs” were sacred, first appearing in Jewish temples during Biblical times. However, “putti” were often viewed in less than wholesome circumstances. This crowned fellow fits into the latter category ($165; Booth B-231). GasLamp dealer Sharon Standifer calls his white paint over metal finish “just chippy enough.” He would make a darling shabby chic addition to a boudoir or dressing room.


It is easy to add a little putti flair to any room with the lamps, vases and art of GasLamp. And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, its time to sprout some wings and fly over to GasLamp to get that putti fix.

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