Tag Archives: poetry

Valentine’s Day is Really May 3rd, and Other Strange Truths About the Holiday

Secret Marriages, Medieval Poetry, and Why Valentine’s Day is actually May 3rd

Lenn, Misha. Sketch 7/ "Nostalgia for the XX Century" Series. 2002. Park West Gallery Collection. February 14, 2012 has arrived! Couples everywhere are planning their big night out while singles are prepping their Chinese take-out menus and Netflix queue. But no matter what, on this romance-tinged Tuesday evening, love will be in the air.

But was this always the case? Has this been such a loaded holiday throughout history? Or is this a day, as they say, “invented by the greeting card companies?”

We’ve consulted the Internet, the vast (and occasionally reliable) wealth of digital information and want to convey a bit of history this Valentine’s Day. We were happily surprised by what we found.

Jacobs, Scott. Caymus by Candlelight. 2006. Park West Gallery Collection.One. There are quite a lot of Saint Valentines and their stories aren’t always so romantic. According to History.com, the most popular legend of Saint Valentine was about a 3rd century Roman priest that performed secret marriages for young lovers. Emperor Claudius II had outlawed marriage, stating that single men made better soldiers. Valentine was imprisoned and sentenced to death. Before he died, he is rumored to have written the very first “Valentine” to the jailor’s daughter, signing it “From your Valentine.” Others’ stories recall tales of dissident priests that were burned at the stake, bishops that were able to cure blindness, a priest who cured the blind jailor’s daughter, a bishop that was beheaded after helping soldiers escape from prison… They’ve all begun to meld together, as cultural legends do.

Rembrandt & His Wife Saskia. Etching on laid paper after an etching by Rembrandt van Rijn (Bartsch 19). Park West Gallery Collection. Two. Valentine’s Day is actually May 3rd. This one’s our favorite. According to Henry Ansgar Kelly, Director of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, there’s a reason why lovebirds and flowers feel out of place in February. In his book, Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986) Kelly states that Valentine’s Day was first romanticized by Geoffrey Chaucer, the medieval poet famous for his Canterbury Tales. In 1381, Chaucer was employed by the court of King Richard II of England. King Richard announced his engagement to Anne of Bohemia on May 3rd after a competitive courtship. One year later, Chaucer wrote The Parliament of Fowls (a poem about springtime love comparing the mating of birds and humans) to lovingly commemorate their first anniversary. Connecting the anniversary with a feast day (the customary thing to do), Chaucer mistook Saint Valentine of Genoa for the more widely celebrated Saint Valentine of Rome, commencing Genoa’s May 3rd feast day as a date for romantic celebration. By the year 1400, Chaucer’s poetry had completely popularized the connection between Saint Valentine’s feast day and his romantic imagery (he wrote three more poems with this theme). However, the rest of Europe was widely unaware of Saint Valentine of Genoa and the day of celebration shifted from May 3rd to February 14th, the feast of Saint Valentine of Rome. This was the first time Valentine’s Day had ever been celebrated with romantic gestures, beginning Chaucer’s legacy of romantic imagery in literature, music, and visual art.

Raad, Lucelle. Secrets. 1997, Park West Gallery Collection.Three. Roses really are red and Violets really are blue. When we were in elementary school making googly-eyes at the one we’ve had a crush on since first grade… what did we write?

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Ice cream is sweet
And so are you!

…or something along these lines. Unless maybe you were the next Ezra Pound or Gertrude Stein as a kindergartner, a total literary genius. But for the rest of the world, our poems looked like this. Where did they come from, these red roses and blue violets? According to The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951), the first version of this children’s poem appears in Joseph Ritson’s Gammer Gurton’s Garland, or the Nursery Parnassus (London, 1784):

The rose is red, the violet’s blue
The honey’s sweet, and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and then I drew
And Fortune said it shou’d be you.

However, Edmund Spenser’s epic poem, The Faerie Queen (1590), provided the original lines:

She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

And now you know. Sappy mothers and childhood crushes everywhere owe Edmund Spenser and Joseph Ritson a round of applause for providing them with literary fodder for centuries to come.

So if your search for true love comes up short this Valentine’s Day, just remember the immortal words of Shakespeare: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Fine artwork by Lucelle Raad, Scott Jacobs, Misha Lenn, and Rembrandt van Rijn is available for purchase through Park West Gallery and its cruise art auctions at sea. To learn more about these and other Park West Gallery artists, please visit our Discover the Artists page and begin your exploration.

Miró – Dupin. Art and Poetry

40785685BARCELONA, Spain — Twenty-five years after artist Joan Miró’s death, The Joan Miró Foundation presents a new exhibit Miró – Dupin. Art and Poetry. The show examines the artist’s lifelong interest in poetry and his close friendship with French poet, biographer and art critic, Jacques Dupin.

The exhibit pays tribute to Dupin, a trustee of The Foundation since its inception, for his contribution as a poet, biographer and writer on the art of Joan Miró. In Volume I of “Miró Engravings (1928 – 1960),” the catalogue raisonné written by Dupin, the author explains:

“If the sense of craftsmanship favorizes Miró’s coming to engraving, his passion for poetry plays an even more determinant role. He has always felt and affirmed the need, for him vital, to surpass the limits of his art and to go beyond painting. Poetry, more than the writings of philosophers and novelists, more even than music, is his magnetic pole, his creator of tensions, this ‘bouche d’ombre’ which summons and paralyzes, instigates and mediates, which is capable of opening space and strenghtening his creative powers.” [Jacques Dupin. “Miro Engravings, Vol. I.” Rizzoli Publishing. New York. 1989.]

Miró – Dupin. Art and Poetry is divided into three parts:

  • Joan Miró and poetry – examines the artist’s lifelong interest in poetry.
  • Dupin – Miró. Dialogues between a poet and a painter – highlights the very close working relationship and friendship between the two men that began in 1957 when Dupin started work on his book on Joan Miró.
  • Dupin, poet and artists’ biographer – analyzes the author’s work as a poet and his commitment to the world of art.

The exhibit is open to the public starting June 17 and runs through October 18, 2009. For more information visit www.fundaciomiro-bcn.org.


Igor Medvedev: Poetry of an Artist

Poetry written by artist Igor Medvedev
From The Serigraphs of Igor Medvedev. Published by Park West Gallery. 2002.

Golden Nets by Igor MedvedevMY BLISS
You ask me what is my bliss?
Conscious to be of what is –
God’s little miracles
I seek in nature
in the cityscape
(while walking by at times
completely unaware) suddenly
I see a synchronistic interplay,
when something looking rather ordinary
is all aglow, alive and is extraordinary;
that is the magic moment
I am looking for,Silhouettes by Igor Medvedev
when form is brought to life
with the spirit of the light –

I try to walk a narrow line
between the subject/form
keep balance
not to turn.

Through observation,
I try to integrate,
express –
the yearning for what has been,
that is my theme…



Magenta Canopy by Igor MedvedevWHERE I HAVE BEEN…
Doors, windows, entrances,
I draw and paint for pleasure,
but also –
in some degree and measure,
because they represent
a sign of the women;
not literally,
but as a numen;
a symbol of a receptacle,
container, holder, bin,
where I have been,
as larva, pupa, embryo;
and will return to other womb,
as grave,
to which I am foredoomed…


Beloved by Igor MedvedevTRANQUIL
In shimmering, silvery splendor
my bride and beloved so slender,
awaits me to come and possess her
and gently, assuredly lead her
from barely felt innuendos
to heaving and throbbing crescendos
til both of us thoroughly spent
exhausted and tranquil we lay.