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Heart (s.m.). Muscle enabled to pump blood automatically. Figuratively speaking, this organ is usually said to be the seat of emotions and feelings-a delicate fantasy that, moreover, is only the remnant of ancient and outdated beliefs.

(Ambrose Bierce)

Since the dawn of time, the heart has symbolized man’s noblest feelings: love, emotion, memory, passion. Placed in the center of our body, it testifies to its presence with the perpetual beat, throughout our lives.

Stylized in Western culture in the typical form, derived perhaps from Egyptian hieroglyphics, it has been represented for centuries in endless works of art. These hearts, however, are highly simplified and trivialize the complexity of a powerful and noble organ.

One representation that fascinates me most, is the drawing of the anatomical heart, with the aorta, veins, coronary arteries, fibers. The anatomical heart as a symbol is definitely new, but it holds the infinite meanings of ancient beliefs with their poetry. I have studied in depth what its messages and beauty are, and I want to share them with you, right after two small preliminaries.

The anatomical heart is a symbol. In this post I will not talk about the functioning of the heart, its organic interconnections, its pathologies. I want to talk about the anatomical heart as a symbol: a medium to convey a message.

The heart is an organ. People are used to classic small hearts with a pointed shape and may have a sense of disgust at seeing a depiction of an anatomical heart. This is normal: an organ put outside the body can witness danger, death, and horror. If you were to choose this symbol as a tattoo or charm, consider that people who meet you might have the reactions I have described. It can be helpful, then, to be able to explain and reassure about the symbol and message.

The scientific wonder of the heart

If you are into science, you will realize that the human body is an extraordinary machine, refined over hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary history. I worked for years as a radiology technician, studying anatomy: it is wonderful to think about how tissues, bones, cells, and organs work together to make us live our daily lives.

The anatomical heart, to me, tells of the scientific wonder I feel when observe this incredibly complex organ.

Think of the myocardium contracting to push blood throughout the body.

Think of the powerful thrust of the aorta, the largest of arteries;

Think of the incredible exchange of oxygen that goes from your breath to your heart and then to your whole body.

The anatomical representation of the heart brings with it these and many other fascinating aspects of Nature. By contemplating its greatness, we will better appreciate our bodies and our lives.

The sacrifice of man

The heart is often associated with the most terrible of sacrifices. The fairy tales of Western culture, much softened by Disney, are actually horror stories that are often about hearts being violently extracted from their bodies. In the famous Snow White, for example, the hunter had to put the maiden’s heart in a wooden box as proof of the killing.

Frightening is the Aztec ritual in which, at the top of the pyramid, four priests hold the victim still on a slab while the fifth priest carves the abdomen with a flint knife. Then, with his hand, he pulls out the still-beating heart and raises it toward the sun as the body is hurled down the steps.

As a symbol, however, the anatomical heart may have a more positive meaning, representing noble sacrifice: an important deprivation for a greater good.

Life power

Athletes develop more than just muscles. A great Judo master, Cesare Barioli, put together three crucial elements: body, mind and heart.

Even from a biological point of view, the heart of a trained person is profoundly different: lower frequency in beats, greater efficiency. When we prepare for danger, the heart begins to beat harder to prepare us for battle, oxygenating our body.

Similarly, the heart powerfully represents life itself, since time immemorial: the electrocardiogram is a scene that punctuates the dramatic moments and happy surprises of so many films.

The anatomical heart, in short, can represent the vital breath and grandiose power of the living body, ready for action and danger.

Emotion and remembrance

Then there is a message that will always be associated with the heart, regardless of its representation. In fact, in ancient times, the heart was thought to be the center of emotions and memories.

If you think about it, telling someone they are heartless makes no biological sense and only takes on meaning if it invokes the ancient idea of emotion at the center of the chest: pity, courage, compassion, empathy, valor, nobility.

The most fascinating aspect, however, lies in the memories: they were believed, in fact, to be contained in the heart. The word “recollection” itself is beautiful: it comes from the Latin word “re-cordis” and means, using Eduardo Galeano’s words, “to go over from the parts of the heart.” Learning by heart, in the English language it is called “by heart” and in French it is called “par coeur”: through the heart.

My inspiration for the anatomical heart

925 Sterling Silver Anatomical Heart Pendant on Palm of the Hand
Anatomical Heart Pendant – Designed and Made by Feel No Pain

I have always been fascinated by Leonardo Da Vinci ‘s scientific depictions , with life drawings of the anatomical parts of humans and animals. Among them, I had been most impressed by his accurate reproduction of the heart, beautiful and realistic.

At the same time, studies in radiological technology had grown in me a special taste for the hidden natural forms of organs . Having precisely modeled a human heart, I made it in silver, to combine the value of this precious metal with the powerful symbols of the anatomical heart.

My message, in a nutshell: wonder for nature, extreme sacrifice, emotion, remembrance and life power.

Discover our Anatomical Heart Pendant here.