It's not Valentine's Day any longer, I know. And even if I'd posted them yesterday, it would have been far too late to use them for Valentines. I know, I know! But now you'll be totally ahead of the game for next year. Maybe. You may not consider these hearts very Valentine-y material, unless you're like me.
But I'm sure you'll find some kind of use for them. There are two anatomical hearts and two emblematic heart designs. Emblems were once a popular way to express moral and ethical abstractions, providing readers with illustrations that helped bring concepts to life.
The two emblems here date from around the 16th century. Even freed of their original context they still carry meaning that makes sense today. The first emblems shows a heart filled with the mechanisms of a clock. Perhaps it's meant to describe the regulation of divine love on the actions of man, but these days it could be taken to mean a false or artificial kind of love (like in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the Emperor's Nightingale, a bejeweled mechanical bird that the emperor comes to favor over the real thing).
I thought I had the second emblem all figured out as being about transformative love, because of the butterfly feeding on the blood of the heart (butterflies being a symbol for the soul and an emblem for transformation) and the young bird awaiting the meal its parent provides by piercing its own breast with its beak. But then I realized that the main illustration, with skeletons standing on either side of a heart, is really of an hourglass. So I got no clue.
But even without any interpretation, it's just cool to have hearts flanked by skeletons and wild things feasting on human blood. Grimm Valentines!
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