Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Talking of Unicorns....and Arzon

Talking of narwhal's tusks and unicorns on Monday made me long to be back again in the Musée National du Moyen Âge in the Hôtel de Cluny on the left bank of the Seine in Paris. Here are some truly amazing tapestries, not least the sequence of six tapestries called the Lady and the Unicorn. These tapestries cover the walls of a single room and you can sit in the middle of the room and savour them all. Savour is the appropriate word, for each tapestry illustrates a sense. This first is the sense of sight. The unicorn, symbol of Christ, rests in the virgin's lap and is shown his reflection in a looking glass, recalling the monstrance of the mass. The tragic look on the virgin's face foreshadows the fate of the Saviour.
Now the sense of hearing conveyed through the playing of a portable organ - look closely and you will see the unicorn again.
Arzon gets everywhere doesn't he? Here he is in the sixth tapestry in the sequence and this tapestry is something of a mystery. Does it represent the sixth, or so-called common sense? The tapestries were all woven in Flanders in the late 15th century on a high warp loom. This meant that the makers sat behind the tapestry and could see their work only by looking at a reflective surface placed in front of the loom. The gorgeous mille fleurs backgrounds are found in illuminated manuscripts of medieval European and also Asiatic origins. Whenever I look at spot samplers I see something similar - but not the same....sources have changed in the intervening 200 years.


  1. This ARZON is very lovely too.I know that on these centuries that sort of dog was called:"chien-lion":lion-dog!They were very fashionable & frequent in that courts.Thanks alot for this post ,Jacqueline.I'm the owner of a Famous Lion-Dog!!Love.Couson

  2. These are stunning. I can only imagine what it must be like to see them in person. One could probably sit and admire for hours!

  3. Thank you for telling us about the lion-dogs. If only we could beam ourselves easily to Paris to see these!

  4. What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

    Wendy Sheppard