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Photo of Cluny Museum

The Lady and the Unicorn: To My Only Desire

The most famous attraction of the Musée de Cluny is the Lady and the Unicorn (Dame à la Licorne) tapestry, the most acclaimed tapestry of its kind. The six charming scenes, which cover the walls of an entire room, bring to life the romance of the age of chivalry. The tapestry was designed by French artists and woven in 1485-1500 in Flanders. It was discovered in 1841 by Prosper Merimee in Boussac Castle and aquired by the museum in 1882.

Each of the six scenes includes a beautiful lady, a unicorn, and a lion. The animals wear heraldry that identifies the sponsor of the work as Jean Le Viste, a powerful nobleman close to King Charles VII (1422-61). The backgrounds are filled with woodland creatures, plants and flowers, creating an enchanted landscape.

Five of the scenes illustrate the five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and sound. The sixth scene (shown here), which belongs either at the beginning or the end of the series, is especially beautiful and intriguing. It is labeled with a banner reading, "To my only desire," and shows the lady placing a necklace in a case held by a servant.

Photo © Holly Hayes.

license this photo at Art History Images