A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cherubs and Putti and Fauns, Oh My!

Cherubs, putti and fauns are all common themes in majolica but they are often difficult to tell apart by the collector.

Cherubs are defined by the dictionary as angelic beings. They have their origin in the Hebrew Bible. They are basically angel children with wings.
Putti are secular in origin. They are small children or adults sometimes with and sometimes without wings. They are almost always naked and generally mythological in origin. Cupid is a classic example of a putto.
Fauns are mythological creatures of half human and half goat or ram. They are usually mischievous and often quite sexual in nature. Sometimes they have horns and pointed ears but not always. Pan is an example of a faun.

All three are found in classic Victorian majolica with the cherubs and the putti fairly interchangeable. The only way to tell the difference between the two is the presence or absence of wings and not always then. Where all cherubs have wings, not all putti have wings. The figures in the Minton piece above are putti because they don't have wings. The figure in the Minton sweetmeat below is either a cherub or a putto, but most likely a putto because of its ride on the classically modeled dolphin. So you see context is usually important as well.

Other examples of putti and cherubs in majolica:

The figures in the George Jones pieces below are fauns. This is easily discerned by the hooves.

Other examples of fauns below from Wedgwood (top) and Minton (bottom):

It's funny how majolica pieces with people as subjects are not very popular with collectors, but the whimsy of cherubs, fauns, and putti seem to appeal to everyone!

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