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03 March 2005

More Virgins! More Kewl Stuph about Virgins!

Down below in my first post about VIRGINS!!! there's a link so you can see images of The Unicorn Tapestries at The Cloisters in New York City.

But maybe it's easier for you to get to Paris, and they have another sublime set of tapestries about virgins and unicorns, la Dame et le Licorne, The Lady and the Unicorn, at the
Musée National du Moyen Age, more commonly known as the Cluny Museum.

These fortunately spare you the grotesque Final Act, the savage murder of the poor unicorn who sleeps in the virgin's lap because he confuses inexperience with innocence. This lady seems to be both inexperienced and innocent (a rare combo); all she wants to do is see, touch, hear, smell and taste the wonderful unicorn. Each of the first five tapestries is themed for one of the Five Senses, and the sixth tapestry is called
À Mon Seul Désir (to my Sole Desire).

Again, we see a vanished art -- the work, probably requiring years, of dozens of expert weavers, probably all women. Like The Unicorn Tapestries, these probably come from Bruges or Brussels in Flanders, and date to shortly before 1500. According to this site, the
millefleurs throughout the tapestry were a specialty of the Flemish weavers; so perhaps you can look at the images and then write me a Comment to tell me what the heck millefleurs are, je suis vraiment clueless.

Each panel contains the coat of arms of the Le Viste family of France, and so were probably commissioned, perhaps by Jean Le Viste, "who held the right to display the family coat of arms from 1457 until his death in 1500."

At the Cluny, they hang in an oval room. George Sand was instrumental in rediscovering them and bringing the public's attention to their exquisite beauty.

The author of this site, the writer Tracy Chevalier, says that in the Medieval legend, first the unicorn suckles at the virgin's breast, and then he falls asleep in the virgin's lap. There are obvious and strong references in this legend to the Virgin Mary.

Ms. Chevalier also surrounds these gorgeous images with an original story about the Lady and the Unicorn. Read it, give yourself a treat.

A note about George Sand ... I live down the road from the all-women Smith College, and Northampton has a very rich and strong feminist culture and community. Across the street from Smith's Main Gate (which can magically immunize any woman from ever marrying) is a very lovely old baroque monstrosity of a theater, The Academy of Music, now operating mostly as an Arte Cinema.

One day the marquee announced the movie


The phones rang off the hook! Within the hour the fellow dragged out the ladder and climbed up and fixed it.


Blogger Mike said...

Millefleurs? I'm just guessing, because I didn't look it up, but... if you break the word into two, words, and define those seperately, you get this:

mille - thousand
fleurs - flowers

That's the french anyway. I'll take a leap and assume it has something to do with flowers though.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

I was just being lazy. I looked it up.

millefleur or millefleurs (1908) adj.: having an allover pattern of small flowers and plants (~ tapestry)

Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary / Tenth Edition

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

But isn't it a pretty word? And don't you feel just so Uptown and Hi-Tone and Classy to pronounce it aloud and know what it means? Sometime this week I will just slip millefleurs into an idle conversation, and impress the poop out of everybody.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

But don't toss "millefeurs" around in your idle conversation at the Bluebonnet Diner or Hugo's Tavern, or the neighborhood Killer Bar (reformed and relocated now) called "The Office." (The joke was that while you were spending the afternoon there, you could phone your wife and say, "Honey, I'm still at The Office.")

In its cheap-whiskey-flowed-like-wine heyday, The Office was in a falling-down shack and its tavern sign was Andy Capp -- "at the Sign of the Drunken English Wife-beater."

You wouldn't have wanted to go into The Office and say to that crowd, "I really think this place would look exquisite with millefleur wallpaper."

Among the world's Spanish-speakers, a bar like The (old) Office is called a Punto Filipino -- a Phillipine Joint. Just your basics. Liquor, a urinal, maybe no urinal.


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