an island blue-night, flanked of four different gasolines of trees
(pine, oak, orange tree and houx), one distinguishes the slim
silhouette from an elegant young woman…
The tapestry representing the Lady with the Unicorn belongs to a series of six, whose history is long and animated.
1882, the museum of Cluny buys at the town of Boussac, in the center of
France, a batch of objects of medieval origin, of which these mural
tapestries. The conservative of the museum estimated at the time they
were French tapestries left a travelling workshop, which worked in the
countries of the Loire.
At the time of their creation, in XVth century, one distinguished the “tapestries with hystoires” and the “greenery”. The Lady with the Unicorn belonged to these last, also called “thousand-flowers”.
In 1965 and 1966, international experts examined them, and this thesis was rejected. Since, one inclines to think that they are originating in Brussels, as testifies their high degree to it to perfection and the complex technique which they reveal. Moreover, the characters and the animals which appear in it point out the powerful style of an excellent painter, probably Hans Memling, one of the great painters of Brussels of XVth century.
The presence of this animal in the British weapons contributed to mistakes in interpretation of this series of tapestries.
On the tapestry, most represented, the unicorn contemplates its image in the mirror which the lady tightens to him, in the center of the composition. On the right, a lion is which holds between its forefeet a pole, whose banner carries a blazon “of mouths to the band of azure charged with three money crescents”.
On this subject, of many experts wondered about the significance of this standard. Some suggested that these tapestries could be ordered by prince Djem, wire unfortunate of Mahomet II, the conqueror of Constantinople. The ideal of this prince, a long time captive in the Hollow one consisted in joining together the Cross and the Crescent.
Finally Edmond of Sommerard, named preserving of the museum of Cluny in 1842, found the solution of this enigma. They were the weapons as of Viste, important family of lawyers established in Lyon, and whose several members occupied of the places in sight at the court of Burgundy. The blazon of this family beside a lion, emblem of the nobility, should not astonish us: indeed, a young lady Viste married a gentleman whose nobility was of sword. These emblems represent the union of the two families. These tapestries concealed introduced later by downward of this union from the castle of Boussac, of which it had married the lord. During a voyage in the Hollow one, George Sand discovered these tapestries. This anecdote is only one episode moreover in the history of the Lady to the Unicorn.
The sight is symbolized by the attitude of the unicorn contemplating
its image in the mirror which the lady tightens to him. For hearing,
the young woman holds a small organ. The taste is evoked by the epic of
following which tightens a cut with its mistress; moreover, the monkey
is on the point of tasting a fruit, and the lion shows signs of
greediness. In the fourth, the sense of smell, the lady braids a
garland, and the symbol is accentuated by the mimicry of the monkey
breathing a flower.
With the fifth table, the touch, the lady effleure of a hand the horn of the animal to the magic capacity and, other, it holds the pole of the standard firmly.
As for the sixth tapestry, known under the term “with my only desire”, it could be a kind of philosophical conclusion: the lady would not choose a jewel in the box which its following presents to him, but, on the contrary, would deposit there, as a sign of renouncement, the collar that it carries in the five other tapestries. According to certain authors, this sixth tapestry would be the understanding, virtue which, with the sight and hearing, defines the things of the spirit, whereas to touch, taste, sense of smell are directions of the matter.
According to this theory, material world and spiritual world were linked in this fabulous animal. This symbolic system joined the hermaphrodite of hermetism and some saw in these tapestries a representation of the Philosopher's stone of the alchemists.
Other interprétaion, complementary:
In the sixth and last tapestry of the famous series of the museum of Cluny, entitled “the Lady with the Unicorn”, the young woman, who strips her jewels, is about to be absorbed by the tent, symbol of the divine presence and Vacuity. The inscription which surmounts the tent, “A my only desire”, means that the desire of the creature merges with that of the will which directs it. Insofar as our existence is a “divine play”, our share becomes free and active, when we are identified with the marionnettist who creates us and directs us. Then it Oneself dissolves to make place with Large-Oneself, under the cosmic tent connected to pole star.
The Lady by its grace and its wisdom (Sophia - Shakti - Shekinah, that which is under the tent) as much as by its purity, pacifies the antagonistic animals of Large-Work: the lion which symbolizes it suffers, and the unicorn, mercury. Often the Lady is comparable with salt philosophal. It is very close to the opposate of Hevajra whose name means “that which is without ego”. The drawn up horn of the unicorn, which symbolizes the spiritual fecundation and which collects the flow of universal energy is in agreement with the axial symbolism of the tent, prolonged by a point with the symbolism of the two lances, of the hairstyle of the Lady and its following, celebrate the mystical weddings of the East and of the Occident (the oak and the houx answering the orange tree and the breadfruit tree.) the oval island which supports the scene is cut out like a lotus, symbol of spiritual blooming. The small monkey sitting in front of the Lady appoints the alchemist in person, the “monkey of nature” taking care on its mistress, who can be comparable in “Materia Prima”;
lion represents the force and in alchemy. The unicorn represents the
purity and in alchemy mercury. The griffon on the cushion represents
marital fidelity. The oak, the houx, the orange tree and the pine
represent the four cardinal points. The small monkey represents the
animality of the man. The hares are the symbolic system of the
underground life. The royal héron and the falcon symbolize the good and
The lady with the unicorn strips these jewels to pass from the material life to the spiritual life.