These are a series of 6 tapestries that were woven in the 1500s in Flanders. The names of the artisans remain unknown at this time. About two years ago, these tapestries were taken off display in Paris to be cleaned and revitalized. They have been returned to their original luster and hang at the Musee National du Moyen Age. But the questions about what these tapestry works mean and represent continues. It is a mystery for the younger generations to begin grappling with.
Each wall tapestry has as its subject a young thin woman with a unicorn on one side and a lion on the other. The landscape is a well-groomed Mediterranean garden. In each of the first five panels, the unicorn is on the woman’s left and the lion to her right. In the final 6th tapestry, the words “A mon seul desir” are added. The animals are in their usual places.
Historians agree that each of the first five tapestries represents one of the five senses; “Touch” (the woman is touching the unicorn and a flag), “Taste” (the woman is feeding a bird, “Smell” (where the woman has flowers), “Hearing” (where the woman plays a harp) and finally, “Sight” (where the woman shows the unicorn his reflection in the mirror). But the real mystery seems to come in the 6th tapestry where the woman is coming out of a tent and placing a necklace into a box. There are also coins and the woman is smiling. Some believe that this 6th tapestry represents the heart, or love.
It does seem odd to modern people to use lions and unicorns to represent the 5 senses. Perhaps there is more to this story than is obvious? Or perhaps these tapestries are as simple as teaching children about the 5 senses.