As with many great loves, Valentine’s Day didn’t start sweet. The holiday reaches back to the Ancient Romans who between February 13th and 15th, hosted the Feast of Lupercalia. Over two days, the Roman romantics sacrificed animals, lashed women and danced drunk and naked. Charming.
How such a brutal event flowered into something so tender remains mysterious. The execution of a martyr – Valentine – contributed, as did Chaucer and Shakepeare who romanticised the holiday in their writing. Beneath its savagery, the Feast of Lupercalia was an exercise in purification, a cultural cleanse. Contemporary Valentine’s Day can perform a similar function, a gesture of irrational exaltation wiping away a year of bickering.
Charles Blackman - 'Titania's Love'
You may reject the Valentine’s Day cliches, but you can’t deny the power of a romantic gesture. Whether your love is steady, new or rearing over the horizon, let art stir your love’s heart. To start your myocardial a-flutter, here is a collection of lovely art. Don’t fall too fast.
Charles Blackman - 'Swoon Away in Esctasy'
Declare your passion with an erotic work of art. In ‘Lovers’, David Boyd brings together fertility and spring, wooing the viewer with a bloom of beauty. Ooh la la.
Brett Whiteley - 'Lovers'
Perhaps however, you celebrate SAD (Singles Awareness Day) on February 14. If so, enjoy the autonomous pleasure of Charles Blackman’s ‘Self Love’. Who says you can’t be your own Valentine.
Charles Blackman - 'Self Love'
Romantic gestures aren’t just for young lovers. Maybe your love has sat by you for years, grown into you, forming a union that is more a partnership than rom-com. As Friedrich Nietzche once declared, “marriage is a conversation.” Such love, rare and precious, deserves celebration.
Jim Thalassoudis’s ‘The Dreamers’ conceals a glitch. It is an Augmented Reality work, meaning that when seen through your smartphone, the heart moves. Spinning, sparkling and shimmering, it is a metaphor for the ones we love – ever surprising, alive, inspiring, even in a form we know intimately well.
Jim Thalassoudis - 'The Dreamers'
The earliest surviving Valentine was written in February 1415 by the French Duke of Orleans. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he wrote to his wife, calling her “my very gentle Valentine.” Around the same time, Chaucer noticed birds pairing off around mid-February, wistfully writing “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
From a savage Ancient Roman festival to poetry, Valentine’s Day has lived a storied life. In its notes of passion, corniness, wistfulness, hope and romance, lies something for every lover. And here, lives art for every lover.