,(from the Latin
, a little man), or 'Amoretto
' (Lat. diminutive of amor
The winged infant commonly found in Renaissance and baroque art, and having the role of angelic spirit, or the harbinger of profane love. Origins lie in Greek and Roman antiquity - the Greek erotes, winged spirits and messengers of the Gods, who accompany a man through his life. Derived from Eros, the god of love. In his earlier manifestation Eros was a youth , or ephebe, but by Hellenistic times had grown younger and more child-like in appearance. This form eventually merged with the genii of Roman religion, who were similar guardian spirits that protected a man's soul during his life, and finally conducted it to heaven. Early Christians adopted this pagan image for the representation of angels in catacomb painting and on sarcophagi. The Middle Ages however based its image of an angel on the full-grown Roman goddess, the Winged Victory, and the infants of antiquity disappeared until the Renaissance. Henceforward, putti feature both as angels in religious painting - a role that reached its zenith in the art of the Counter-Reformation - and as the attendants of Cupid, the ubiquitous messengers of profane love in secular themes. They constantly accompany Venus, and occasionly attend the Virtues and Vices. They are an attribute of Erato, the muse of lyric and love poetry.
Hall's dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art.