Monday, December 29, 2008
I have been listening to Tracy Chevalier's "The Lady and the Unicorn" on sound recording, a delightful diversion when driving and painting. I have become enchanted by the idea of Mille-fleur, or background flowers from tapestries. Chevalier's book traces a fictionalized account of the making of the unicorn tapestries held by the Musée de Cluny in Paris. Chevalier's website has samples of all of the tapestries, but I found examples of Mille-fleur to be even more enlightening. In Chevalier's book a garden is described in detail as the source material for the "thousand flowers" background of many a hunt scene or fete. I recalled my attachment to "The Unicorn in Captivity" from the Hunt of the Unicorn cycle held at the Cloisters. I think much of my attachment to that work is derived from the Mille-fleur covering the ground, I wonder how I might apply it to my work now. The above images are taken from the Metropolitain's website for the Cloisters tapestries, specifically these are details of "The Unicorn in Captivity." On the left is an example of the clove pink Carnation with a fragment of the unicorn's fence, and on the right is an example of a Madonna lily. Both flowers have symbolism grounded in virginity and earthly love, betrothal, and marriage. Many of the flowers in these tapestries provided talismanic protection because the flowers were used in daily life to warded off illness or combat poison.