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His symbols are the arrow and torch, "because love wounds and inflames the heart." These attributes and their interpretation were established by late antiquity, as summarized by Isidore of Seville (d. Cupid is also sometimes depicted blindfolded and described as blind, not so much in the sense of sightless—since the sight of the beloved can be a spur to love—as blinkered and arbitrary.As described by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1590s): Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.In other contexts, Cupid with a dolphin recurs as a playful motif, as in garden statuary at Pompeii that shows a dolphin rescuing Cupid from an octopus, or Cupid holding a dolphin.The dolphin, often elaborated fantastically, might be constructed as a spout for a fountain.At the same time, the Eros who was pictured as a boy or slim youth was regarded as the child of a divine couple, the identity of whom varied by source.The influential Renaissance mythographer Natale Conti began his chapter on Cupid/Eros by declaring that the Greeks themselves were unsure about his parentage: Heaven and Earth, The Greek travel writer Pausanias, he notes, contradicts himself by saying at one point that Eros welcomed Aphrodite into the world, and at another that Eros was the son of Aphrodite and the youngest of the gods.The multiple Cupids frolicking in art are the decorative manifestation of these proliferating loves and desires.During the English Renaissance, Christopher Marlowe wrote of "ten thousand Cupids"; in Ben Jonson's wedding masque Hymenaei, "a thousand several-coloured loves ... Cupid is winged, allegedly, because lovers are flighty and likely to change their minds, and boyish because love is irrational.
In the 15th century, the iconography of Cupid starts to become indistinguishable from the putto.Cupid continued to be a popular figure in the Middle Ages, when under Christian influence he often had a dual nature as Heavenly and Earthly love.In the Renaissance, a renewed interest in classical philosophy endowed him with complex allegorical meanings.A mosaic from late Roman Britain shows a procession emerging from the mouth of the sea god Neptune, first dolphins and then sea birds, ascending to Cupid.One interpretation of this allegory is that Neptune represents the soul's origin in the matter from which life was fashioned, with Cupid triumphing as the soul's desired destiny.
In the Greek tradition, Eros had a dual, contradictory genealogy.