A delightful watercolor world map

Drawn by Martha Anne Love (1819-1895), MAP of the WORLD, Prince Edward County, VA; September 10, 1831.
Watercolor on wove paper, 21 ½"h x 29 ¾"w (sight). Housed in an early frame, with recent addition of spacers and acid-free mat board. Genealogical information written in green ink on verso of frame.

Map drawing was an important method of geographic education at the primary level, and “schoolgirl maps” are frequently encountered on the market. This example, by a young girl from Prince Edward County, Virginia is one of the loveliest we have seen.

The decorative scheme is quite elaborate, incorporating an eagle bearing a title banner and floral swags encompassing each sphere. The swags at the top consist of alternating pink roses and blue forget-me-nots, and each is enhanced with a blue ribbon. Those below consist solely of roses. Both flowers were likely chosen for their symbolism. Floriography, or the Language of Flowers, was popular both in Europe and in America at the time and found its way into the curriculum of girls’ academies, which emphasized the arts. Both roses and forget-me-nots were, and remain, symbols of love. In addition to expressing a sentiment, it seems possible that Miss Love’s choice of flowers was intended as a play on her name.

According to a family note on the backing board, Martha Ann Love was born in 1819 and died in 1895, which would have made her approximately twelve years of age when she drew this map. While it map exhibits flaws of the sort that one might expect of a twelve year old-for example, the South Pole accidentally identified as “Nort Pole” on the left Hemisphere and the phrase “Antarctic Ocean” only partially completed on the right–the overall effect of the map is one of considerable charm.


Warping and discoloration from old water damage, but no signs of mold or mildew. The condition of the map is now stable.