One of the most famous masterpieces of medieval art, “The Lady and the Unicorn”, is now on exclusive display in Australia at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, through a loan from the collection of the Musée de Cluny- Musée national du Moyen Âge in Paris. Revered as a French national treasure, this 15th century ‘Mona Lisa of the Middle Ages’ will be in Sydney until 24 June 2018.
Prior to their Sydney exhibition, the six large scale tapestries, together measuring more than 20 metres in length, have only left Paris on two occasions, firstly being displayed New York in 1973-74 then Tokyo and Osaka in 2013.
The six tapestries, which are woven in wool and silk, are amongst the greatest surviving artworks of their kind. Showing a richly costumed lady flanked by a lion and a unicorn, surrounded by animals, trees and a millefleur (thousand flowers) background, five of the tapestries depict the senses with the sixth representing the heart or understanding. The sense of touch has the lady holding the unicorn’s horn while taste shows her feeding a bird and smell has her holding flowers. Hearing depicts her playing music and in sight she is showing the unicorn his reflection in a mirror. The sixth tapestry with the text ‘Mon seul desir’ (My only desire) depicts the lady emerging from a tent, held open by the lion and the unicorn.
Maud Page, The Art Gallery of New South Wales Deputy Director and Director of Collections, said “The tapestries are universally revered and are a portal to the past, but the lasting beauty of “The Lady and the Unicorn” is that it retains its mystique and its freshness after centuries, still inspiring awe in viewers today.”
I would recommend that it is well worth making a special visit to Sydney to view this beautiful exhibition.
Sandra Tiltman Photos: John Pond