Cobweb Valentine, Anonymous  , American or British, 19th century, Watercolor, cut tissue on board

Cobweb Valentine

Anonymous , American or British, 19th century
Watercolor, cut tissue on board
Diameter: 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
Ephemera, Drawings, Ornament & Architecture
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Richard Riddell, 1981
Accession Number:
Not on view
Circular, delicate, hand-cut cobweb device, 16.5 cm. The base, of stiff ecru paper, has a carefully painted border of pink feathered ovals, and is centered with an image of a beautiful woman, her long ringlets caught at the sides with roses. She wears a golden locket on a long, black cord suspended over her bodice. An applied cobweb is hand-made of fine white tissue paper, and has a narrow yellow ribbon as a central pull-tab. Cobweb lifts into a dome by gently lifting a looped thread, to reveal the woman's image.

This mechanical device is known as a cobweb, beehive, flower cage, or birdcage. It was a popular paper engineering device, which provided a secret place for a romantic image, or even a lock of hair. The carefully-cut concentric circles would lift via a delicate thread, and the inside image would be revealed.
Marking: Watermark: Whatman 1849
Mrs. Richard Riddell; Donor: Mrs. Richard Riddell