This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for November 21st, 2009

Lady with Unicorn: Sense of Hearing

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2009

Lady with Unicorn: Sense of Hearing

I purchased this design from Scarlet Quince, purveyor of complex patterns for the compulsive needleworker.

“Sense of Hearing” is available in two sizes. This one is the smaller version, measuring 318 x 410 stitches (total: 130,380 stitches), 133 colours. It will be worked on 18-count Aida (= 18 stitches/inch). The larger version is 450 x 581 stitches, 143 colours. The finished size of this version will be about 18″x23″.

This list of symbols gives you an idea of how many colours are used. For those of you who are unfamiliar with a cross-stitching symbol chart, here’s a brief explanation. Each cross-stitch is worked with two strands of embroidery floss (thread). Each symbol in this chart is followed by one or two numbers, depending on whether two strands of one colour or two strands of two different colours is called for in the pattern.

Floss list

The actual charts. I must be insane. Or I will be when I finish this. I enlarge the charts on a photocopier so that they’re easier to read and so that I can mark them up with highlighter.


Others in this series:

When I ordered “Sense of Hearing,” the others had not yet been published.

I saw the originals years ago when I was backpacking alone through Europe. It was pouring in Paris and I sat in a small bistro called “Le Cluny” and ordered a glass of red wine. The name triggered a vague memory of a museum. (I love medieaval art.) I found the Cluny Museum in my guide book.  The museum was deserted. I spent an hour alone in a dimly lit room, viewing the Unicorn Tapestries. That was one of the highlights of my time in Paris.

The Tapestry House provides the following background:

The Lady and the Unicorn series of tapestries were made for the Le Viste family in the late 15th century, confirmed by the appearance of their coat of arms throughout the works (a blue diagonal slash with 3 crescents against a red background). The tapestries were believed to have been commissioned to celebrate Jean Le Viste’s (1432 – 1500) appointment as a counsellor to the court of Louis XI in the 1480s. The use of Mille Fleurs would indicate that they were likely to have been made in workshops in Flanders, a specialty of Flemish artists.

After the death of Jean Le Viste the tapestries were believed to have passed to his daughter, Claude. Her estate was divided between relatives on her death as she died without having children. At this point exact details of the series of tapestries are unknown, although they are believed to have remained within the Le Viste family for generations. By the 17th century they had travelled with various branches of the family via marriage, and ended up in Boussac in central France.

In 1841 Prosper Mérimée (1803 – 1870), the French governments’ inspector of historical monuments, discovered the works in very poor condition in Boussac. He recommended to the government they buy the tapestries, and they eventually did in 1882, passing them to the Cluny Museum, now the Musée National du Moyen Age in Paris. They can still be found there today in a specially designed oval shaped room, and they have underwent extensive restoration work over the years to restore them to their original condition.

According to Flanders Tapestry, the tapestries originated in the workshop of Willem de Pannemaker (Brussels).

Tracey Chevalier, author of The Lady and the Unicorn: A Novel, provides some background information about the Le Viste family.


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