At the heart of symbolism

Lady with the UnicornTaste, Smell and Hearing


The Lady and the young Lady

Despite their different dimensions, probably related to practical imperatives, the tapestries of Taste, Smell and Hearing are similar in their composition. The Lady is wearing sumptuous clothes and adorned with pearls and precious stones. The refinement of the clothes and jewels can notably be found in the detail of the openings fastened by laces and the twisted or ringed necklace matching the belt. Only her hairstyle really differs in Hearing. Consisting of two braids brought together as an egret above the head, it evokes the horn of the mythical animal.

In each of the tapestries of Taste, Smell and Hearing, the Lady is helped by a young Lady to illustrate the three senses:

In sense of Taste:

The Lady seizes with her right hand a delicacy in a dish offered by the young Lady and gave it to a parrot standing on her gloved left hand. In the foreground, a monkey takes a fruit to his mouth.

In sense of Smell:

The young Lady presents a tray laden with carnations to the Lady who does or undoes a flower crown that she has on in Taste. Behind her, a monkey sitting on a bench smells the perfume of a rose.

In sense of Hearing:

The Lady plays a melody on a portable organ called “positive” and laid on a piece of furniture covered with a rug while the young Lady is activating the bellows. The two uprights of the instrument are enhanced by medallions of precious stones and pearls; one is topped by a lion, the other by an unicorn. In the foreground, a pointing fox seems to have heard something.

The etymological relationship between the crown (from the Latin “corona”) and the horn (from the Latin “cornu”) also conceals a symbolic relationship. The crown is an attribute of the spiritual and temporal power, the outer radiance of which is suggested by its circular form and the flowers opening in all directions. Placed on the top of the head, the crown symbolizes the meeting point within the being of descending celestial with ascending terrestrial influences. A descent and ascent alongside an Axis linking Heaven and Earth and symbolized by the two intertwined horns of the mythical animal.

The tapestry of Taste is the only one to contain a round fence made of roses. It isolates the main characters from the red background spangled with flowers. The flowers play an important role in the whole set of tapestries, particularly in Taste and Smell.

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