Tag Archives: Museums

Guest Post: The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries by The Joy of Museums

Guest Post: The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries by The Joy of Museums

Thank you to The Joy of Museums for this wonderful exploration of one of my favorite topics–unicorn tapestries!

The lady and the unicorn Taste

The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries, is over 500 years old, and has inspired books, songs and movies and have stirred debate amongst historians. “The Lady and the Unicorn” is regarded as the Mona Lisa of woven artworks due to its symbolism, history and mystery. The tapestry’s meaning is obscure but has been understood to represent “love or understanding”.

Woven in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium, from wool and silk, the “Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries” consist of six tapestries designed from drawings that originated from Paris. Five of the tapestries, illustrate the five senses using a woman to interact with a unicorn, a lion and a monkey. The sixth tapestry remains more of a mystery with the prominent wording “À Mon Seul Désir” (To my only desire) on the tent.

The Lady and the unicorn Touch

In the “Touch Tapestry”, the lady stands with one hand touching the unicorn’s horn, and the other holding up the pennant.

The Lady and the unicorn Sight

In the “Sight Tapestry”, the lady is seated, holding a mirror up to the unicorn.

The lady and the unicorn Taste

In the “Taste Tapestry”, the lady is taking sweets from a dish.

The Lady and the unicorn Smell

In the “Smell Tapestry”, the lady stands, making a wreath of flowers.

The Lady and the unicorn Hearing

In the “Hearing Tapestry” the lady plays the organ on top of a table.

In all the five tapestries, the unicorn is to the lady’s left and the lion to her right, a common theme to all the tapestries.

The sixth, “À Mon Seul Désir” Tapestry is wider than the others and has a different style. The lady stands in front of a tent, across the top of the entrance to the tent is written “À Mon Seul Désir”. An obscure motto, the unicorn and the lion stand in their standard positions framing the lady while holding onto the tent pennants.

Tapestry weavers use to create the design as they progressed using their imagination, from the fourteenth century onward they copied from a broad sheet of paper (cartone) or from a drawing or painting (cartoon). “The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries” are one of the most significant surviving examples of tapestry art from the Middle Ages.

Historians argue that in five of the six panels, the mysterious lady with the unicorn is Mary Tudor, third wife of Louis XII and sister of Henry VIII, who was Queen of France from August 1514 to 1 January 1515. This Middle Ages masterpiece was “rediscovered” in poor condition in 1841 in the castle of Boussac.


Essential Facts:

  • Title:                       The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries
  • Artist:                     Woven in Flanders based on drawings from Paris
  • Year:                       1500
  • Medium:                Wool and Silk
  • Dimensions          H: 3.68m  w: 2.00m
  • Discovered:           1841
  • Museum:               Musée National du Moyen Age


“A bad craftsman blames his tools.” French Proverb


Creative Juice #72

Creative Juice #72

Fourteen servings of beauty and creativity:

  1. Animated photos.
  2. These houses are for the birds.
  3. Beautiful quilts by Diana McClun.
  4. Two-dimensional reclaimed wood portraits.
  5. An interesting glimpse at Da Vinci’s genius, and two more books I want to read.
  6. A sculptor talks about the Period Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  7. Oliver Sacks said imitation and mastery of form precede creativity.
  8. Embroidery beyond the hoop.
  9. Nonfiction reading list.
  10. Illustrators celebrate Christmas.
  11. This Christmasy blog post is just so pretty I had to share it.
  12. A quick trip around the world in photographs.
  13. Some lovely menorahs.
  14. An artist’s (slightly twisted) process for writing a Christmas book.

Creative Juice #62

Creative Juice #62

Thirteen articles to help you get your creativity on:

  1. Cute little paintings.
  2. A trip to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
  3. What playing the piano does for your brain.
  4. Wildlife photography in black and white.
  5. Beautiful waterfalls.
  6. Lovely ceramics.
  7. What happens when you let seniors wear costumes for ID picture day.
  8. I love this artist’s sketches.
  9. Award-winning quilts. (Click on the small images for enlargements.)
  10. Instead of aimless surfing, read these websites to increase your knowledge.
  11. Quotes to ponder.
  12. Amazing paper sculptures by Nguyễn Hùng Cường.
  13. Something you can do to exercise your creativity.

Creative Juice #60

Creative Juice #60

Some beautiful, some quirky, all creative:

  1. Paintings with the look of vintage photographs.
  2. Vintage photographs taken by a teenaged Stanley Kubrick.
  3. These beautiful creations remind me of when I took up embroidery as a young wife. I miss those days.
  4. I always wondered how Chicago came up with the title 25 or 6 to 4.
  5. Paintings of Max Pechstein.
  6. I’ve read 12 of these, and I’d like to read more of the books on this book club reading list.
  7. Twenty-five free and easy quilt patterns.
  8. I want to win this contest. Only funny people need apply. Am I funny enough?
  9. Beautiful Christmas quilt—and links to many more original designs.
  10. The illustrations of Mike Ciccotello.
  11. That awkward moment at the museum when you see your portrait—and it was painted before you were born…
  12. Surreal images of synchronized swimmers.

Creative Juice #54

Creative Juice #54

Twelve more sources of creative inspiration:

  1. The guitar in art.
  2. Beautiful modern quilts.
  3. Man’s best friend.
  4. The loveliest GIFs ever.
  5. I always love seeing Suhita Shirodkar’s sketches.
  6. When I was in high school in the late 1960s, I sometimes took the bus into New York City so I could wander through Central Park.
  7. Unique, affordable travel accommodations.
  8. Take a walk in the garden.
  9. Prize-winning travel photos from the National Geographic contest.
  10. A new application for the Five Second Rule.
  11. Pixilation enters the world of sculpture.
  12. Lessons learned at Uffizi Gallery.

Creative Juice #51

Creative Juice #51

Your weekly dose of artistic inspiration:

Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix Art Museum

This past Mother’s Day, my youngest daughter, Katie, spent the afternoon with me at the Phoenix Art Museum. Here is a sampling of what we saw–just a tiny bit of the museum.


Ballet Dancer by Everett Shinn


Birdie Serenade by Gregory West


Detail of above



The Golfer by Victor Vasarely


Nude Man by Viola Frey, glazed ceramic

When we were on the raised platform where the Nude Man sat, Katie looked across the way and asked about the view below, “Is that a hallway or another piece of art?”


Answer: it’s a hallway; but do you see why she thought it might be a large mural or something?

Below is the wooden facade from a house in Hue, Vietnam.IMG_0708

Upside Down, Inside Out by Anish Kapoor, sculpture made of resin and paint:


Below, Column Interminable by Betsabeé Romero: 17 “tires” inscribed with symbols from pre-conquest North, South, and Central America, the Aztecs, the Paracas people of Peru, and the ancient Hohokam people who lived in what is now Arizona. Romero’s themes are migration and borders.


The portrait below of Philip Glass looks photographic, no? It’s not. Viewed up close, you’d see it’s a jacquard tapestry woven of very fine colored fibers. I’m guessing technology was key in producing this. I can’t imagine it was woven by hand. Phil–State I by Chuck Close:


Fernando Bryce drew the collection of drawings below from advertisements and newspaper articles about Leni Riefenstahl, the German dancer and actress who directed Nazi propaganda films. His motivation for the work was to explore the tension of an artist working on behalf of an evil dictator.



Samurai Tree 2H by Gabriel Orozco


Message by Matthias Goeritz; gold painted perforated metal on painted wood


Detail of Message


Hopi Flute Player by Emry Kopta


Shift Change at the Magma by Lew Davis


Sphere Lit from the Top by Sol LeWitt

The remaining images are pieces of European art on loan from the Schorr Collection:


Portrait of Cardinal Domenico Grimani by Lorenzo Lotto


Portrait of Barbara Palmer by Peter Lely


Detail of Portrait of Barbara Palmer


Genoese Nobleman by Antony Van Dyck


Portrait of a Man, Probably Pieter de Graaf by Govaert Flinck

The following are woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer:


The Annunciation


Detail of The Annunciation


The Adoration of the Magi


Detail of Adoration of the Magi


Portrait of Baron Philippe François Didier Usquin by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson


Portrait of an Old Woman by Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn


Bust of Julio Contarini by Alessandro Vittoria

Below, Moses Receiving the Tablets of the Law and Christ Blessing by Benjamin West.

It’s been ten years since I’ve been to the Phoenix Art Museum. I’m so grateful Katie wanted to go with me. Thanks, Katie!

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Creative Juice #46

Creative Juice #46

Glimpses of beauty from eleven different sources.

  • What if you looked at tears under a microscope?
  • I love Ann Voskamp’s Multivitamin posts. (They’re not about vitamins; they’re a collection of good, uplifting, beautiful, and sometimes funny stuff.)
  • When you’re taking photographs, always take multiple shots.
  • If you’re going to be in New York City between now and September 17, 2017, you might want to check out the Rauchenberg exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.
  • Insight from a six-year-old.
  • Take notes like Leonardo Da Vinci.
  • Creativity—the lies, and the truth.
  • Prize-winning illustrations.
  • I love a good caricature, don’t you?
  • Grafitti—vandalism or art form?
  • Biological classification charts.

Art Reflections

Art Reflections

My offerings for the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge.

My daughter Katie honored me today (Mother’s Day) by accompanying me to the Phoenix Art Museum. (More photos from our visit will appear in a future post.) I captured our reflections in two of the sculptures.

In front of Upside Down, Inside Out by Anish Kapoor:

Nine Slat Mirror by Thomas Glassford:


MIM Again

MIM Again

In April, my daughter, Carly, visited from Brooklyn, New York. She mentioned she’d like to go to the MIM.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve been there at least five times since in opened in 2010. I’ve written other posts about The MIM.

Here are some of the sights we saw on our visit (click on the smaller pictures to enlarge and reveal captions):

The mariachi exhibit:




tapa from Oceania, a textile made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree:


Grand piano made for Czar Nicholas I of Russia:


Pretty cool, huh?

What about you? Have you been to MIM, or to another musical instrument museum? (I know there’s another in Paris, and maybe elsewhere.) Share in the comments below.

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