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Antonio Canova (1 November 1757 – 13 October 1822)

More on Valentine’s Day

I apologize for being a day late and a year ahead on Chaucer and Valentine’s Day, etc.

You will find below, among related articles, a post that tells about the origin of Saint Valentine’s Day.  It’s the final and rather amusing post in a short series of posts on St Valentine’s Day.  We’ve discussed the Lupercalia, pastorals, préciosité, pancakes, etc., and all these posts are related to Valentine’s Day.

For Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), the 14th of February was the day when birds mated.  It’s a lovely legend.  Othon III de Grandson devoted a third of his poems on stories surrounding St Valentine’s Day.

Moreover, Chaucer was familiar with the French courtly love tradition as he had translated, but not in its entirety, the Roman de la Rose, by Guillaume de Lorris, who wrote the first 4058 lines circa 1230.  The poem was completed by Jean de Meun who composed an additional 17,724 lines.  Chaucer’s Romaunt of the Rose is included in his Legend of Good Women, a poem.

The six tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn are also associated with Valentine’s day and Chaucer.  They were commissioned by Jean le Viste, described as a “powerful nobleman at the court of Charles VII” (22 February 1403 – 22 July 1461).  (See The Lady and the Unicorn, Wikipedia.)  The tapestries belong, in part, to the courtly love tradition.  Only a virgin could capture a unicorn, which suggests platonic love.  However, the horn of the unicorn is a phallic symbol.

As for cards, the first was written by a saint and martyr.  According to Britannica, “[f]ormal messages, or valentines, appeared in the 1500s, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used.”[i] They became popular in the 19th century.

With respect to Charles d’Orléans, he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Agincourt, on October 25, 1415, and spent twenty-four years in England.  After he returned to France, he helped disseminate Othon III de Grandson’s Valentine stories in courtly circles.

We have several incunables (books printed between 1450 and 1501) combining the printed text and illuminations.  They cannot be shown in this blog if it is to posted on or near February 14, 2013.  Chaucer’s Tales of Canterbury is an incunable, printed by William Caxton, a fascinating gentleman.  But the Ellesmere Chaucer is a famous illuminated manuscript, housed in the Huntington Library, in San Marino, California.  (See Ellesmere Chaucer, Wikipedia.)


[i] Valentine’s Day”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.


Antonio Canova – Musica Mozart
Sonata en Do mayor – K 303 (293c) Adagio Molto allegro
© Micheline Walker
14 February 2013