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Q: Symbolism of naked cherubs in Christian Art ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Symbolism of naked cherubs in Christian Art
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Visual Arts
Asked by: artesacra-ga
List Price: $35.00
Posted: 13 Jun 2005 18:52 PDT
Expires: 13 Jul 2005 18:52 PDT
Question ID: 532995
What is the history and symbolism behind cherubs in Christian art? Why
are they as well as the baby Jesus often shown naked?

Request for Question Clarification by nenna-ga on 13 Jun 2005 19:16 PDT
Are you speaking of cherubs (depicted simply as winged heads)or putti
(winged "little people")?  Usually you see the putti in religious art
and not cherubs.

Subject: Re: Symbolism of naked cherubs in Christian Art
Answered By: nenna-ga on 13 Jun 2005 20:14 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Good evening artesacra-ga and thank you for the question.

Cherubs (Cherubim) are the second highest Order of Angels (the first
being Archangels). In the Throne Room they were said to stand next to
the Throne of God.

Cherubs are the first Angels mentioned in the Bible when two Cherubs
are placed by God to guard the gates to Eden with Flaming Swords.

Genesis 3:24:  "He drove out the man; and at the east of the Garden of
Eden He placed the Cherubim, and a Flaming Sword which turned every
way, to guard the way to the Tree of Life."

Ezekiel 10:14:  ?And every one had four faces: the first face was the
face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the
third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.?

They were not described as the cute little "cupid like" Angels
depicted by painters, but instead as having four wings. (Ezekiel
10:21).  They also combined features of these four creatures; the
stature and hands of a man, the hooved feet of a calf and the two
pairs of wings.  Two of the wings extended upward, meeting above and
sustaining the throne of God; while the other two stretched downward
and covered the creatures themselves. They never turned, but went
"straight forward" as the wheels of the cherubic chariot, and they
were full of eyes "like burning coals of fire" (Ezekiel 1:5- 28; 9:3,
10, 11:22).

They were also mentioned in the 2nd book of Chronicles where the King
Solomon decorates the Temple with the images of cherubs.

2 Chron 3:10: "And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of
image work, and overlaid them with gold."

Figures of golden cherubs with outstretched wings were on the lid of
the Ark of the Covenant, and carved engravings of cherubs were on the
walls of the Temple's inner and outer sanctuaries.

Drawings of winged creatures appear on Mesopotamian stone tablets
starting around 4000 BC.   In paintings, they usually accompanied any
of the Holy Trinity, as well as the Madonna.

Many today envision cherubs to be naked little children with halos and
wings (think Valetine's Day cards).  These representations arose in
Renaissance times (see Raphael's Sistine Madonna at (  )
and are based on still earlier representations found in Roman art
forms and late Christian art.  Some art historians believe Christians
adopted the image of the  winged dawn goddess Aurora or Eos to
represent angels.

Another interpretation of the nakedness of cherubs:

?...Before the sin of Adam and Eve, the cherubs were unnecessary; they
appear only as a result of the sin. Perhaps we may draw the following
conclusion - the cherubs represent none other than Adam and Eve
themselves, young and innocent and naked in the Garden of Eden...?

( )

Cherubs are often confused with Putti.  Putti comes from the Latin,
putus, meaning "little man?.  They are spiritual beings and thus
depicted as winged little people. Years later, they were being
depicted the same way. Which one they were, simply depended upon the
theme of the painting or sculpture:

If religious (sacred) -- they were Cherubs. 
If secular or mythic (profane) -- they were Putti.

I hope this answers your question.  If you would like clarification
before rating my answer, please do not hesitate to ask!

Google Researcher

Sources:  Art Renewal Center

Worldnet Grace Ministries
( )

( )
( )

Google Search Terms:

( :// )
( :// )
( :// )

Request for Answer Clarification by artesacra-ga on 15 Jun 2005 21:04 PDT
Hi there,

Thanks for your well detailed answer on cherubs and the difference
between them and 'putti'. Can you explain the second part of my
question about why the baby Jesus is also often shown half-naked as
well? Does this relate again to His sinlessness and lack of Original

Thanks again,

Steve (artesacra-ga)

Clarification of Answer by nenna-ga on 16 Jun 2005 07:15 PDT
Good morning artesacra-ga.  Please let me begin by apologizing for
misreading your question and not fully answering.  Thank you for
bringing this to my attention!

In answer to your question, "...why [is] the baby Jesus also often
shown half-naked as well?", please find the following answer:

Growing up in the Church,  I was taught that in the beginning, Adam
and Eve walked through the Garden of Eden naked.  It represented
purity and innocence.

Genisis 2:25: "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and
were not ashamed."

After their transgression against God's rules (the original sin), they
became ashamed of their nakedness and made aprons of fig leaves.

Genisis 3:7 "And the eyes of them both were opened and they knew they were naked." 

After that, God considered nakedness shameful.

Genesis 9:22-25 tells the story of Noah and his sons, and how he
cursed Canaan because he saw him naked.

Exodus 28:42: "And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their
nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach."

In Biblical accounts of the Roman Imperial era, prisoners were often
stripped naked, as a form of humiliation.  Additionally, until the
beginning of the 8th century, Christians in Western Europe were
baptized naked, emerging from the water like Adam and Eve before the

= = = = = = = = = = 

I believe the naked image of Jesus in art was the artists way of
portraying Him as one without sin, pure and innocent, as stated above,
as well as to teach us that He was as much human as He was the Divine

"...The emphasis on Christ?s meant to underscore his biblical
humanity...In the theology of the Renaissance era, Christ?s divinity
had already been firmly established, giving the artists of that age
freedom to demonstrate, and reflect upon, the humanity of the

Source:  OldSpeak

= = = = = = = = = = 

During the Renaissance, artists tried to portray the beauty of the
nude male. However, the Church tried to prohibit the depiction of the
nude form but artists managed to find enough "religious topics" to
allow the naked human form in art ? one of the main subjects being
Christ (a few notable others were Adam, St. Sebastian, King David as
well as characters from mythology.)

Goya's "La Maja Desnuda" and "La Maja Vestida"  were two almost
identical paintings.  The difference?  One is of the female clothed
and one is not.  In Europe, in the 19th-century, it was common to have
two paintings of the same subject for the same place on the wall.
Depending on which guests were visiting, one or the other was shown.

Interestingly, there is only one example of a fully naked adult Christ
- Michelangelo?s Risen Christ  - portraying Jesus shortly after the

I hope this fully answers your question.  If any more information is
needed, I will gladly oblige!

Google Researcher

Additional Sources:

G.G.Sil, A Handbook of Symbols in Christian Art, Simon and Schuster (1975) p. 64.

History of the Nude Male
( )
( )

The Holy Bible
artesacra-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
This was a thorough and excellent answer to what I was looking for.
Thank you ever so much.

Subject: Re: Symbolism of naked cherubs in Christian Art
From: nenna-ga on 22 Jun 2005 08:13 PDT
Thank you very much for that rating.  I am glad I was able to help you!


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