The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, housed at the Musée de Cluny in Paris, are a series of six exquisite medieval tapestries that are renowned for their beauty, craftsmanship, and mysterious symbolism. These tapestries are believed to have been created around the year 1500 and are considered masterpieces of medieval art.
The tapestries were discovered in the decaying Château de Boussac in the 19th century. The artist's identity is still unknown, but it is believed that they were designed by the same person who designed a famous book of hours for the French queen Anne of Brittany (1477-1514). Woven in Flanders, each tapestry measures approximately 3.5 meters (11 ft) high and 2.5 meters (8 ft) wide, showcasing intricate details and vibrant colors. They depict a lady and a unicorn in various scenes, surrounded by a richly decorated background. The tapestries are woven in wool and silk, incorporating gold and silver threads, which add a luxurious touch to the overall design.
Their precise meaning remains a mystery. There are six tapestries in total, with five depicting the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) and a sixth titled À Mon Seul Désir ("to my only desire") whose meaning remains unclear. The central figures of the lady and the unicorn are accompanied by other animals, including lions, rabbits, birds, and dogs, as well as various floral elements. These elements are believed to represent different virtues and concepts such as love, purity, passion, and the five senses.
The tapestries exhibit a captivating blend of medieval aesthetics, classical symbolism, and elements of the natural world. They offer a glimpse into the cultural and artistic sensibilities of the late Middle Ages and have captivated audiences for centuries.