Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

The Lady and the Unicorn (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

ABR Arts 16 February 2018

The Lady and the Unicorn (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

ABR Arts 16 February 2018

One of France’s great treasures, the five-hundred-year-old, six-panel tapestry series called The Lady and the Unicorn, is in Australia for four months, courtesy of some fortuitous inter-museum contacts, and deft work by the Art Gallery of New South. A loan of such significance usually takes years to negotiate. This one was finalised and mounted at warp speed (one might say). Don’t miss it; it is rare for textile works of such renown and fragility to travel. France has only lent its Lady and the Unicorn twice before – to New York’s Metropolitan Museum and to Japan’s national art centres in Tokyo and Osaka.

The tapestries themselves are beautiful, enigmatic, elevated. Luminous in their dark room, they float above the reflective pool of a glassy black floor (the AGNSW installation is a triumph), otherworldly, and as disconcerting as the mythical unicorn itself. You might walk slowly past and simply marvel at their textured intricacy and splendour, but you are unlikely to do only that. There is such play, such a blending of the naturalistic with the allegorical in these great panels, that any child would stop to peer and wonder at their detail, be transported into their world of myth, of story, of women, beasts, and nature, freighted with mystery. And anyone who has ever sat with needle and thread over an embroidery sampler, or who has knotted warp thread onto sticks and passed wool under and over, will have some inkling of the technical finesse of these works. They are, simply, masterpieces – of imagination and execution.

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Comments (3)

  • As a student in Paris in 1968, I enjoyed visiting 'The Lady and the Unicorn' at the delightful Musée de Cluny in the Latin Quarter. She is considered to be the 'Mona Lisa of the Middle Ages'. My partner and I spent an hour taking photos and rejoicing in details of the tapestries, each picture based on one of the 'creative' senses of Smell, Taste, Sound, Sight, Touch, and Love at the Art Gallery of NSW in February.
    Posted by Anne Skyvington
    05 December 2018
  • Mr. Jacky LORETTE
    37320 CORMERY


    I am very happy that tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn can be seen by Australians in Australia.
    I appreciated your article and the beautiful pictures of great quality.
    I have been studying these tapestries for over forty years. The interpretation of the six tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn requires careful observation of every detail.
    To take note of a new interpretation of these tapestries, I invite you to visit the following addresses:
    I wish you a good reading. Great regards.
    Jacky LORETTE
    Posted by Jacky LORETTE
    01 March 2018
  • Hello.
    To read more about the tapestries of The Lady and the unicorn :
    Posted by Jacky LORETTE
    28 February 2018

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.