Aristotle + Admiral’s Hearts

If there is one person who would appreciate our love of Valentine’s Day hearts, it’s Aristotle. ‘The seat of the soul and the control of voluntary movement – in fact, of nervous functions in general – are to be sought in the heart,’ said he. ‘ The brain is an organ of minor importance.’

‘Whereof first,’ Aristotle added, ‘the heart is made of the purest blood; then of blood not so pure, the liver; and of thick and cold blood the marrow and brain.’

In Aristotle’s Book of Problems – ‘an accretion of multiple authorship over several centuries’ – we see an extension of this romantic view of the all important heart.

‘Q. Why are beasts bold that have little hearts?’

‘A. Because in a little heart the heat is well united and vehement, and the blood touching it, doth quickly heat it and is speedily carried to the other parts of the body, which give courage and boldness.’

In honour of Valentine’s Day, we will celebrate Aristotle’s beloved heart, whilst acknowledging the brain’s role as more than one of minor importance when it comes to love. We will do so with the work of Jan L’Admiral, an 18th Century Dutch artist who was commissioned to create anatomical Prints of the Brain and the Heart for the renowned physician, Frederik Ruysch.

L’Admiral’s goal was to create anatomically realistic illustrations for doctors to use in their work. These images come to us courtesy of Amsterdam’s Rijks Museum which, like the Met, is allowing people to download images from their collections to admire, study and use.

Happy Valentine’s Day  💛

Written by Elizabeth Newton


Header Photo: Prints of the Brain and the Heart. Jan l’Admiral. 1700-1750


The Sun Tower


Gate to the Northwest Passage

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton