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Book of the Dead for the Chantress of Amun, Nauny, 1050 B.C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Nauny, a Chantress of the god Amun-Re (a woman who chanted the ritual for the gods and goddesses), died in her 70s. She is depicted here in the Hall of Judgment (to the left of the scale), waiting for her heart to be weighed against Maat, the embodiment of cosmic order. The scale balances, indicating that Nauny has led an ethical life worthy of entering the eternal afterlife. From The Book of the Dead for the Chantress of Amun, Nauny, 1050 B.C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Since ancient egypt the heart has been tied to love. Ancient Egyptians believed that the heart was the center of all amorous feelings. They also believed it was the seat of the soul, and that it would be weighed at the time of one’s death. (It needed to be light as a feather to enter the afterlife.)

For Ancient Romans, the association between the heart and love was a given. (We also have them to thank for the placement of wedding rings, as Romans believed a vein in one's fourth finger was connected to the heart.)

However love-centric the heart might have been for the Ancients, our story of the double-clefted icon doesn't pick up until the Middle Ages.

An early depiction of the heart = love. Here the heart is shaped like a pinecone. It hasn't yet taken its iconic form. The Romance of the Pear, 1250.

An early depiction of the heart = love. Here the heart is shaped like a pinecone. It hasn't yet taken its iconic form. The Romance of the Pear, 1250.

Thought to be the earliest image of the heart icon. From the illuminated manuscript "Romance of Alexander" by Jehan de Grise & workshop, 1338 - 1344, Bodleian Libraries.

Thought to be the earliest image of the heart icon. From the illuminated manuscript "Romance of Alexander" by Jehan de Grise & workshop, 1338 - 1344, Bodleian Libraries.

The heart symbol was born in the 14th century.

those first hearts were little more than decorative doodles — likely cribbed from nature — on the edges of Medieval manuscripts. Medieval Europe, with a mostly illiterate population, was all about symbols, and during the 13th and 14th centuries, this random shape began to signify love. That Medieval association of the heart shape = love has remained connected ever since.

Courtly love in medieval Europe a virtuous love that emphasized nobility and chivalry. God Speed by Edmund Leighton, 1900. Wikimedia Commons.

Courtly love in medieval Europe was virtuous love that emphasized nobility and chivalry. God Speed by Edmund Leighton, 1900. Wikimedia Commons.

The crown made for the wedding of Anne of Bohemia and Richard II. She died of the plague in 1394. Richard was so devastated that he demolished Sheen Manor, where she died. He designed a monument — a double-tomb for the two of them — with life-sized bronze effegies depicting them crowned and holding hands. Their joint tomb, now damaged, is in Westminster Abbey, 1399. Allie Caulfield/Wikimedia Commons.

The crown made for the wedding of Anne of Bohemia and Richard II. She died of the plague in 1394. Richard was so devastated that he demolished Sheen Manor, where she died. He designed a monument — a double-tomb for the two of them — with life-sized bronze effegies depicting them crowned and holding hands. Their joint tomb, now damaged, is in Westminster Abbey, 1399. Allie Caulfield/Wikimedia Commons.

In part to escape the drudgery of daily life, (anyone know the feeling?) medieval fantasy life centered around love. And not just any love — chivalric love. The greatest knight wasnt just a warrior, he was kind, courteous and devoted to his lady. This was the era that birthed the story of King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table.

Medieval heart brooch with three loops for (now-lost) pendants. The reverse is inscribed in medieval French, "I am yours forever", 1400-1464. The British Museum.

A wolf-tooth set in a heart-shaped bezel. The ring is inscribed with a magical charm to protect against toothache: "Buro + Berto + Berneto" as well as the words "Cosummatum + Est" - the last words Christ was said to have spoken on the cross and were used as a charm to calm storms. c. 14th century, The Victoria & Albert Museum.

A wolf-tooth set in a heart-shaped bezel. The ring is inscribed with a magical charm to protect against toothache: "Buro + Berto + Berneto" as well as the words "Cosummatum + Est" - the last words Christ was said to have spoken on the cross and were used as a charm to calm storms. c. 14th century. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

it is also the era of Geoffrey Chaucer (and when we begin inching toward Valentines Day). In 1382, after five years of negotiations, Anne of Bohemia married Richard II of England. In honor of their marriage, Chaucer wrote a love poem titled The Parliament of Fowls. And in it, he mentions Valentines Day.

“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day when every bird comes there to choose his match” — Parliament of Fowls, Chaucer, 1382

Chaucer wasn’t the only poet who associated Valentine’s Day with love. French poet Oton de Grandson composed “Saint Valentine's Dream.” All this talk of hearts and love contributed to a sudden proliferation of hearts — on books (even heart-shaped books!), on tapestries, and, of course, heart-shaped jewelry.

Reverse of a gold brooch, inscribed in Medieval French "Ours and always at your desire", 1400. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Reverse of a gold brooch, inscribed in Medieval French "Ours and always at your desire", 1400. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Cupid peeing on his mom, Venus (any boy moms relate?). This was a marriage painting and the knotted cloth around the breasts were known as a strophion. This is a Renaissance nod to clothing in Ancient Greece and Rome, when the groom untied it after the wedding.  Venus and Cupid by Lorenzo Lott, 1520s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A painting to celebrate a Renaissance marriage depicts a naughty Cupid peeing on his mom, Venus (any boy moms relate?). Venus and Cupid by Lorenzo Lott, 1520s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Allegory of Charity by Francisco de Zurbaran, c. 1655

Catholics didn't leave the heart to the Protestants. During the Counter-reformation, they held onto the Medieval theme of surrendering one's heart to God. Allegory of Charity by Francisco de Zurbarán, c. 1655. Museo del Prado.

during the renaissance,Cupid, that mischievous son of Venus, supplanted the heart as the love symbol of the day. However, our favorite symbol never completely disappeared. It would appear now and again (particularly in Catholic iconography), but Cupid definitely pushed the heart shape to the margins.

Lutheran rose, Our Lady Church in Memmingen , Germany.

Martin Luther's seal — a.k.a. the Lutheran rose — with its red heart center, Our Lady Church in Memmingen, Germany.

Then, in the 16th century, Martin Luther revived the heart, by incorporating it into his personal seal. With his nod of approval, the heart was one of the few icons acceptable in Protestant and Calvinist circles. Now, the heart icon could equal religious as well as amorous love.

Silver heart-shaped brooch, inscribed, "Love" on the reverse. National Museums Scotland.

Silver heart-shaped brooch, inscribed, "Love" on the reverse. In the late 1800s, those open-heart brooches made in Edinburgh began to be known as luckenbooths, from the Gaelic words for the small stalls where they were sold. National Museums Scotland.

When the heart's tail curves to the right, it's known as a "witch's heart".  By the 18th century, its meaning have evolved from a protective talisman to indicting that one was "bewitched" in love. S

When the heart's tail curves to the right, it's known as a "witch's heart". By the 18th century, its meaning evolved from a protective talisman to indicting that one was "bewitched" in love. National Museums Scotland.

While Martin Luther was fighting for the heart symbol in Germany, in 16th century Scotland, a silver open heart-shaped brooch had become a common betrothal gift. Then, after the couple married and had a child, the brooch would be pinned to the baby's clothes to ward off witches or even worse, some evil fairies who might steal the baby and switch it out (this was known as a changeling. Yikes!)

Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, commemorative jewelry, like this heart, was made for royalists as a sign of allegiance, 1649. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

A loyal heart. Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, commemorative jewelry, like this heart, was made for royalists as a sign of allegiance, 1649. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Reverse of the heart in support of Charles I, 1649. Victoria & Albert Museum.

Reverse of the heart in support of Charles I, 1649. Victoria & Albert Museum.

Mid-eighteenth century ring left with child 1036 in 1752.  Foundling Hospital, London.

In 1741, the London Foundling Hospital was established to care for the city's growing population of abandoned children. Mothers who left their babies would also leave a small token as means of identification, if she were ever able to return. Ruby and diamond ring left with child 1036 in 1752. Foundling Museum, London.

By the 18th century, the heart had become the established symbol for all kinds of love. And every form of the heart was popular: asymmetrical witches hearts, blazing hearts, twin hearts (love intertwined), hearts with crowns (loyalty), stout hearts, narrow hearts, hearts surrounded by pearls (you are beautiful), hearts with arrows (love conquers all).

A "secret picture" of Queen Victoria painted as a gift for husband Albert's 24th birthday by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in1843

A "secret picture" of Queen Victoria painted as a gift for husband Albert's 24th birthday by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1843. This pendant may be the glass heart-shaped locket containing a lock of Prince Albert's hair which the Queen wore 'day and night' before her marriage.

a heart-shaped locket containing Prince Albert's hair when he was a child sent to Queen Victoria by his nurse in 1867,

A heart-shaped locket containing Prince Albert's hair when he was a child sent to Queen Victoria by his nurse in 1867,

And in the 19th century, jewelry loving Queen Victoria kept the heart trend front-and-center. She loved jewelry with some sentimentality and the heart fit that bill perfectly. She had numerous heart-shaped jewels including a charm bracelet with enameled heart lockets, each containing the hair of one of her children. Heart jewelry was a constant for the Queen. She wore during both the happy periods of her life and during mourning.

Queen Victorias royal stamp of approval made the heart one of the most popular motifs of the Victorian age.
Onyx heart with the name of Queen Victoria's daughter Alice (who died of diphtheria in 1878, at age 35).

Onyx heart with the name of Queen Victoria's daughter Alice (who died of diphtheria in 1878, at age 35).

Reverse of the locket, which holds a lock of Alice's hair. The piece was sold at Sotheby's in March 2021 for £25,200 (It blew past the estimate of £2k-3k)

Reverse of the locket, which holds a lock of Alice's hair. The piece was sold at Sotheby's in March 2021 for £25,200 (It blew past the estimate of £2k-3k)

Monna Pomona by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1864

The same heart-shaped necklace in two Rossetti portraits. Monna Pomona by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1864. The Tate Museum.

Regina Cordium by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866. The Glasgow Museum.

Regina Cordium by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866. The Glasgow Museum.

Arts and Crafts artists may have eschewed Victorian industrialism but they certainly embraced the heart motif. After all, they were into all things medieval, and that certainly included the heart. Basically, everyone in the 19th century — no matter their political views or status — was into the heart-shape. And our obsession with the heart continues to this day.

This paste-set heart brooch was given to Jane Morris (wife of William Morris) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She was often painted by Rossetti, who was known to visit curiosity shops in London to hunt for exotic jewelry and accessories for his paintings. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

This paste-set heart brooch was given to Jane Morris (wife of William Morris) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She was often painted by Rossetti, who was known to visit curiosity shops in London to hunt for exotic jewelry and accessories for his paintings. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

A portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's mistress, Fanny Cornforth. Fanny is wearing the heart pendant that Rossetti later gave to Jane Morris, 1865. Rossetti. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

A portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's mistress, Fanny Cornforth. Fanny is wearing the heart pendant that Rossetti later gave to Jane Morris, 1865. Rossetti. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

lets cirlce back to chaucers valentines day. The holiday, with all its emphasis on the heart-shape, had been a well-established since the 17th century. In Britain, the gift-giving frenzy could last as long as a week — making it an upper class holiday. But by the 18th century, handmade cards, sealed with wax, and left on a ladys doorstep was a thing everyone could get into. And they did.

The earliest mass-produced Valentines was the brainchild of a female entrepreneur, Esther Howland of Worcester Massachusetts who, in 1847, designed her own cards and then supervised a team of girls who executed their construction. (She earned as much as $100,000 in a single year!) The availability of mass-produced cards crushed the hand-made versions. Even though, the mass-produced took over, when you send a Valentine, you are following a centuries long tradition. One that began with the feast of St. Valentine in 5 A.D. — not a Hallmark (established 1910) holiday at all.

An Esther Howland Valentine's card. "Affection" ca. 1870.

An Esther Howland Valentine's card. "Affection" ca. 1870.