The Lady and the Unicorn
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Lady and the Unicorn (Template:Lang-fr) is the modern title given to a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders of wool and silk, from designs ("cartoons") drawn in Paris in the late fifteenth century, The suite, on display in the Musée du Moyen-Âge, is often considered one of the greatest works of art of the Middle Ages in Europe.
Five of the tapestries are commonly interpreted as depicting the five senses – taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch. The sixth displays the words "À mon seul désir". The tapestry's meaning is obscure, but has been interpreted as representing love or understanding. Each of the six tapestries depicts a noble lady with the unicorn on her left and a lion on her right; some include a monkey in the scene. The pennants, as well as the armor of the Unicorn and Lion in the tapestry bear the arms of the sponsor, Jean Le Viste, a powerful nobleman in the court of King Charles VII.
The tapestries are created in the style of mille-fleurs (meaning: "thousand flowers").
The tapestries were rediscovered in 1841 by Prosper Mérimée in Boussac castle (owned at the time by the subprefect of the Creuse) where they had been suffering damage from their storage conditions. Novelist George Sand brought public attention to the tapestries in her works at the time. The cycle is currently held in the Musée de Cluny (Musée du Moyen-Âge), Paris (France), where it has resided since 1882.
In popular culture
- The tapestries are described in detail by the narrator of Rainer Maria Rilke's novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.
- These tapestries are also the central theme of the novels The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, and The Seventh Unicorn by Kelly Jones.
- A Trilogy of historical novels by Pith Schure have come out under titles of the format La Licorne and.... In this richly illustrated work the tapestries come and go.
- Several of the tapestries can be seen hanging on the walls of the Gryffindor Common Room in the Harry Potter films.
- Unicorns being a central theme in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, the character Cardeas Vist has all of the tapestries in the drawing room of his mansion. Also, Riddhe Marcenas's role is that of the "Lion", with Mineva Lao Zabi being the "Lady" and the "Unicorn" being Banagher Links.
- These tapestries have also appeared in the book named Century By Sarah Singleton
- The six tapestries have inspired the six movements of Kaija Saariaho's clarinet concerto D'OM LE VRAI SENS (2010). The title is an anagram of "A mon seul désir".