Anonymous: The lady and the unicorn - À Mon Seul Désir (1500)



(Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris, France)

A tapestry made by an unknown Flemish artist. This tapestry is part of a set of 6. Five of them ar commonly interpreted as depicting the five senses – taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch. The sixth, depicted here, shows the words 'À Mon Seul Désir' . All six tapestries show a lady with the unicorn on her left and a lion on her right. Here the lady stands in front of a tent, with a maidservant who opens a chest. The lady is picking up or setting aside a necklace which she is wearing on the other five tapestries. On her left is a dog sitting on a bench. The words 'À Mon Seul Désir' have been interpreted as '"with my unique desire", "my one/sole desire" or "according to my desire alone". The interpretation remains uncertain. Interpretations which have been proposed are: the renunciation of the passions aroused by the other senses, and as an assertion of her free will, representing love or virginity (only a virgin can tame an unicorn) or representing the sixth sense of understanding. The coat-of-arms on the tapestry is that of Jean Le Viste, a powerful nobleman in the court of King Charles VII of France -the sponsor of the set. Tapestry from around 1500.

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