Celebrating St Valentine’s Day with Love in Art

couples-in-artFebruary has always been a month for romance, although the origins of St Valentine’s Day itself have become murky. Way back in the day, on February 15th, pagans celebrated Lupercalia; a fertility festival dedicated to their God or Agriculture, Faunus. But the 5th century arrived all too quickly for the pagans and Lupercalia was outlawed by the Christian Church. It was replaced with St Valentine’s Day (Valentine being one of three possible Saints of the same name), and moved to February 14th.

bridal-fashionsRomance only really came to Valentine’s Day during the 14th and 15th centuries, when some clever Englishmen and Frenchmen thought February 14th was the first day of the birds’ mating season. Thus, from then on, St Valentine’s Day became a day of not only birdy romance, but a celebration of human love.

Art, literature and music have often found their muses in romance, and the work of artists, writers, poets and musicians often celebrates the love symbolised by Valentine’s Day. Find artistic inspiration in our selection of books celebrating love in art.


Glittering Evening in Central Library!

Love (and glitter) was in the air in the Central Library Boardroom on Wednesday, when Reader in Residence Ryan Van Winkle sprinkled some poetic magic over our Valentine’s Card Making Workshop attendees. This year, tired shop bought verses will be no match for our sparkling, sequinned and beribboned cards, featuring the most romantic of sentiments from T.S. Eliot, e.e.cummings and old favourite, Edward Lear (who penned The Owl and the Pussycat).

Take a look at these photos to see for yourself!

Ryan Van Winkle is pretty confident that he’ll be able to woo his sweetheart with this masterpiece featuring ‘The Mysterious Human Heart’ by Matthew Dickman.

If you’re perplexed as to why a stick of celery and a potato are on a Valentine’s card, why not find out more about Matthew’s work by listening to this podcast, featuring Ryan and Matthew in conversation?

With our vast collection of poetry pamphlets and books, Edinburgh City Libraries is sure to have just the right verse for you, so why not get your glitter glue and scissors at the ready and have a browse through these suggestions?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

How to make the perfect Valentine’s Day card

“Roses are red, violets are blue, what else should I write, I haven’t a clue…”

Tired of shop-bought sentiments? Lost for words? Why not let our resident poet Ryan Van Winkle and his articulate friends (Keats, Burns, Shakespeare…) help you find the right words to woo that special someone?

Ryan will provide all your card-making materials and poetry, just bring your creative flair!

Wednesday 8th February, 6pm – 8pm at Central Library. Booking is esssential, to reserve a free place call 0131 242 8100 or email readerdevelopment@edinburgh.gov.uk

Romantic reads

“When it comes to love, there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name . . . .”— Jeffrey Eugenides, from the introduction to My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: great love stories from Chekhov to Munro

Feeling romantic? Here are a few more reading recommendations in time for Valentine’s day.

Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has spent years working on The Museum of Innocence, which has been widely acclaimed as his masterpiece. A story about a young man’s pursuit of his first love is also the story of modern Turkey.

One day by David Nicholls traces a relationship which begins in Edinburgh in 1988 over a twenty year span. Nicholls uses the device of limiting the action to July 15 of each year to astonishing effect. Here’s what The Times thought: One Day is a wonderful, wonderful book: wise, funny, perceptive, compassionate and often unbearably sad. It’s also, with its subtly political focus on changing habits and mores, the best British social novel since Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up!

When is your wife not your wife? Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen is part love story, part comedy and part psychological thriller.

Find a love poem to carry. Browse through an anthology for the verse that sums up your feelings. We’d recommend this Scottish anthology and the nation’s favourites.

Or uncork the wine, open the chocolates and settle down with a romantic film. Perhaps this tale from the city of love, or maybe revisit a classic.