From the Peabody With Love

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

To celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, the Peabody would like to highlight some love-related objects from our collection. From heart-shaped designs to meanings of love, we hope these featured artifacts give you that “loving feeling.”

Venus Figurine (59953)

Venus – the goddess of love and beauty – is a common figurine found in museums and archaeological excavations. Venus figurines such as those in the Peabody collection, were used in various ways such as offerings, ritual practices, and as grave goods in burials. For more on these figurines and their history check out this article from Current Anthropology by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

This artifact is a dark green plaster cast reproduction of a Venus figurine. The original figurine was made of crystalline talc and was excavated from the Grimaldi Caves in Italy. The figurine, known as Pulcinella or the Venus of Polichinelle, is dated to the Aurignacian or Upper Paleolithic period (about 40,000 – 10,000 BCE). The cast figurine was acquired by Warren K. Moorehead in 1925 on one of his trips to Europe. The figurine reproduction is a part of the Peabody’s education collection.

Cast reproduction of a Venus figurine from Italy.

Heart Padlock (107/7688)

Heart-shaped locks have their origins in a Scandinavian-style padlock. These locks were made with various metals such as brass, bronze, and cast iron. The two key characteristics of a traditional heart lock were a spring-loaded keyhole cover called a “drop” that would keep dirt and insects out of the lock (not present on this specific artifact) and a metal loop so a chain could be placed through it to prevent the lock from getting lost or stolen. Source: “The History of Padlocks,” Lock Blog. United Locksmith. 2021.

This large metal padlock was excavated by Adelaide and Ripley Bullen in the summer of 1943. The padlock was found in a dump pile southwest of the cellar hole at the Lucy Foster site, the nineteenth century Andover homestead of an emancipated African American woman. Ripley was employed as a student assistant at the Peabody during the 1940s, and Adelaide helped with the library and other tasks; both of their sons graduated from Phillips Academy. You can learn more about Adelaide Kendall Bullen and the Lucy Foster site from the following blogs: Women of the Peabody, Peabody at the Smithsonian, and Lucy Foster’s Ceramic Collection.

These heart-shaped locks remind me of the Pont des Arts, the famous Lock Bridge in Paris, France. I had first visited this bridge in high school on a study-abroad trip where I fell in love with the story of the Love Lock Bridge (no pun intended). The Pont des Arts is right near the Louvre and crosses the Seine River. The tradition is for lovers to attach personalized padlocks to its railing and throw the keys away in the Seine River. While the tradition did not originate in Paris, it is the most famous destination and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2015, the French government began to remove the padlocks (45 tons in total!) from the bridge in order to protect the historical structure. For more on this tradition and the efforts for its removal, visit here.

One large heart-shaped padlock excavated from the Lucy Foster Site in 1943.

Wedding Vessel (2018.5.4)

The hand painted, ceramic vessel is a Jemez wedding vase made by artist Andrea Fragua, from the Pueblo of Jemez, New Mexico. The wedding vase plays a significant part in traditional marriage ceremonies. The two spouts represent the separate lives of the to-be married couple. The bridge at the top unites the two spouts. The vase is filled with holy water or herbal infused tea and the couple drinks from their respective side. If the couple manages to drink from the vase together without spilling, they will have a strong relationship. This ceremony is similar to the exchanging of wedding rings. Source: “Pueblo Wedding Vases,” Toh-Atin Gallery. Durango, CO. 2021.

Friend of the Peabody, Dominique Toya, fired a wedding vase in summer 2020. Dominque is an artist and educator from the Pueblo of Jemez. For five years now, the Toya family (Dominque, Maxine, and Mia Toya) have visited Phillips Academy to make traditional Pueblo pottery with PA students through Thayer Zaeder’s ceramic classes. To learn more about these visits check out this blog. To view the live firing of a wedding vase by Dominique Toya check it out here!

Wedding vessel used in marriage ceremonies.

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