The Lady and the Unicorn
This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal.… Read more
The Lady and the Unicorn


The Lady and the Unicorn
Flanders, circa 1500
woven with a central, elegantly attired lady with a leashed polecat (?) on one hand and a flower in the other, to the right, a lady cradling a unicorn in her lap and to the left, a youth feeding an exotic bird on his arm, carrying a pouch with the initials AE, all woven against an indigo ground with naturalistic mille-fleurs and the occasional rabbit
142cm x 248cm
Formerly thought to have been part of the La Rochefoucault family collection, France
Jean Dolfus (1823-1911), France
Gogue-Robin collection, France
Jacques Bacri collection, Paris
Special notice
This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Christie’s Park Royal. All collections from Christie’s Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.
Further details
The famous suite of tapestries, known as the ‘Lady and the Unicorn’, are woven with allegorical figures each with complex religious and secular significance. The Unicorn is associated with feminine chastity but also with the resurrection both of the spiritual and physical body, for example. There are also links with the cult of the Virgin Mary, although in the present lot the Lady appears to be restraining the Unicorn by holding onto the horn. The central Lady’s leashed polecat also suggests the holding in check of the physical world on one hand, whilst at the same time maintaining a symbol of purity in the other. Clearly, the tapestry embodies allusions to a complex moral code.

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Cosima Stewart
Cosima Stewart

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Lot Essay

Compare the series of seven mille-fleurs tapestries in the Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum New York, Aquisition Numbers 37.80.1-6 also woven on an indigo blue background with strikingly similar mille-fleurs background, and which bear the same initials, that is to say 'AE' as woven on the wallet carried by the figure on the left.

The Metropolitan Museum’s examples were formerly attributed to the La Rochefoucault family, The initials were thought to refer to Francois, son of Jean II de La Rochefoucault and Marguerite de Barbezieux, specifically to the first and last letters of his wife Antoinette d’Amboise, and their son Antoine.

It seems likely that the present example was probably part of the same commission.

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