It has been very difficult for me to home in on one particular favourite object at Knole, there are too many beautiful pieces all wonderfully crafted (or painted), with so many features that unless you stop and really look for a while you can easily miss some very interesting and intricate detail. We get the chance to really have a thorough look at every item throughout the winter months and I have already noticed some exquisite detail on many items which, because I might not have cleaned that item last year, I am seeing for the first time this year. Still, unfortunately, this has not helped me choose one particular item. With so much grandeur around how is it possible to find just ONE item to write about?
So I decided to try and find a group of something, or a theme. Whilst condition checking one of the small tables in the ballroom, I chanced upon my ‘theme’. As I looked around me I found more of them, each room I walked into I found them jumping out at me. What I had fallen in love with were the little Putti and Cherubim found on so many items in Knole, I even managed to encourage some of my colleagues to find them for me too.
They look like little infant babies (although they are spiritual beings) and appear on tables, candlesticks, picture frames, ceramics, paintings, textiles and tapestries and were very popular during the Renaissance Period. They have the cutest of faces (in most cases) – chubby and squeezable and I adore them.
The name Putti (which is the plural of Putto) is Italian in origin and rooted from the Latin word putus which when translated into English means small boy or child. They are usually nude but sometimes winged. It is difficult to tell Putti apart from a Cherub (or the plural Cherubim) although the Cherub represents the second order of angels closest to God (they guard the throne of God as well as the gates of the Garden of Eden) so are found in religious scenes or themes, the Putti are secular (non-religious) and arose from Greco-Roman classical myths, not the Christian tradition, and were associated with Eros or Cupid as well as with the Muse Erato of lyric & love poetry.
Perhaps next time you visit Knole you might find a moment to look around and see if you too can see these cute little infants, climbing a candlestick or table leg or maybe just peering over a picture frame or looking down at you from above.