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The_Lady_and_the_unicorn_DesireThese I have assembled using Wikipedia

(please click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Touch

The lady stands with one hand touching the unicorn’s horn, and the other holding up the pennant. The lion sits to the side and looks on.

Sight

The lady is seated, holding a mirror up in her right hand. The unicorn kneels on the ground, with his front legs in the lady’s lap, from which he gazes at his reflection in the mirror. The lion on the left holds up a pennant.

Taste

The lady is taking sweets from a dish held by a maidservant. Her eyes are on a parakeet on her upheld left hand. The lion and the unicorn are both standing on their hind legs reaching up to pennants that frame the lady on either side. The monkey is at her feet, eating one of the sweetmeats.

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Smell

The lady stands, making a wreath of flowers. Her maidservant holds a basket of flowers within her easy reach. Again, the lion and unicorn frame the lady while holding on to the pennants. The monkey has stolen a flower which he is smelling, providing the key to the allegory.

Hearing

The lady plays a portative organ on top of a table covered with a Turkish rug. Her maidservant stands to the opposite side and operates the bellows. The lion and unicorn once again frame the scene holding up the pennants. Just as on all the other tapestries, the unicorn is to the lady’s left and the lion to her right – a common denominator to all the tapestries.

à mon seul désir

This tapestry is wider than the others, and has a somewhat different style. The lady stands in front of a tent, across the top of which is written “À mon seul désir”, an obscure motto, variously interpretable as “my one/sole desire”, “according to my desire alone”; “by my will alone”, “love desires only beauty of soul”, “to calm passion”. Her maidservant stands to the right, holding open a chest. The lady is placing the necklace she wears in the other tapestries into the chest. To her left is a low bench with bags of coins on it. The unicorn and the lion stand in their normal spots framing the lady while holding onto the pennants.

© Micheline Walker
February 16, 2012
WordPress

This tapestry has elicited a number of interpretations. One interpretation sees the lady putting the necklace into the chest as a renunciation of the passions aroused by the other senses, and as an assertion of her free will. Another sees the tapestry as representing a sixth sense of understanding (derived from the sermons of Jean Gerson of the University of Paris, c. 1420). Various other interpretations see the tapestry as representing love or virginity. It is also debated whether the lady in “À mon seul désir” is picking up or setting aside the necklace.

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