Anonymous Valentine Card, mid to late 1800s
Artist unknown (United States)
Valentine card, mid-late 1800s
perforated paper, embossing, lithograph, hand coloring
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.7111
This Valentine card was once intended as an intimate show of affection between two individuals, but these emotions are now mediated through the lens of a museum collection and lend themselves more readily for appreciation of their aesthetic and nostalgic qualities. This process by which museums transform objects is a theme of An Errant Line.
The celebration of St. Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday goes back to the medieval period. It was believed that this was the day that the birds began to mate and thus an auspicious day to choose a romantic partner.
The popularity of sending Valentine cards, written on plain paper, began in the 18th century. In the 1820s in Britain and the United States paper made specifically for Valentine cards began to be produced. By the 1840s the commercially produced Valentine card had become popular.
The Valentine card on display is typical of the mass produced cards of the mid-19th century. The cards were generally made of flat paper sheets with embossed borders, and would contain a printed illustration.
Joshua Daul is a History of Art graduate student at the University of Kansas.