Even though January can be dark and cloudy and the weather unpredictable, it can also be breathtakingly beautiful, even in a vintage illustration!
Olive greens, browns, and deep reds remind us of robins, cardinals, holly, and evergreens, the bright spots of winter. Did you ever notice how you really see houses when they are highlighted by snow? Or how pines and spruces suddenly come into the foreground once the deciduous trees have lost their leaves?
Here, an olive-clad mysterious lady with a basket, a fur muff, and a letter, shows us that she is carrying a secret. What is so important that she must brave the cold and snow to deliver its contents? Or has she just received important news?
The crusted snow mirrors the letter. Both have crisp, white exteriors, but secrets lie beneath.
I will probably always be an Iowa girl at heart, and the soft grasses peeking from beneath the snow make my heart skip a beat.
This chirpy robin is saying something, and the vintage card would have allowed the sender to fill in her own message beneath…whatever she wanted the bird to say. Perhaps: cozy up in your nest and stay warm this winter! Or maybe she is announcing the birth of some baby birds this coming spring or perhaps a human baby.
In an old book illustration, a red-caped maiden entices a robin as it sits atop a bare branch. Gold and gray Victorian dresses, ice-covered branches, and a French garden wall frame the pretty little bird as it tries to decide if it should trust her. This illustration by L. E. Barker, found on the British Library’s collection of vintage images on flickr, is from a book of poetry published in 1853 (Poetry of the Year: Passages from the Poets).
It is almost as if this illustration is a closeup of the one above, showing us that for the robin in winter, the struggle is real! Oh, I want to bring it indoors, poor thing.
My parents feed these sweet birds all year long, but in the winter in Iowa, birdseed, shelter, and a heated birdbath are the difference between life and death. The image is by J. Hall from a book published in 1893 titled Nursery Songs.
Soft greens surround a mademoiselle leaving a church service, who has caught the eye of a gray robin. “We are the same,” they seem to be saying to each other, “with our muted pink dresses and our covered heads…we may not be as fancy as others, but we are survivors!”
The bird and the girl stand out amidst soft snow and gray skies and are surrounded by branches and a latticed window that mimic the ribboned frame. I’m not sure what the purpose of this vintage image, but it may have been a simple Christmas card or maybe a calling card for the winter: “I came by to see you.”
In this image, the beauty lies in the colors and textures of winter. Biting winds and stinging cold may make us long for spring, but we are so much more appreciative of small comforts and simple beauty.
I’m so glad images such as these continue to be available to us many years later. Happy January!