History of Millefleurs:
The millefleurs design in tapestries evolved in circa 1450 -1460, one of the first fully developed examples to survive being the Armorial Tapestry of Philip the Good of Burgundy, woven in Brussels in circa 1466 (now in the Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern). This genre of tapestry, however, remained popular until the mid-16th Century. A large number of plain millefleurs tapestries were manufactured as wall coverings, chair covers and bed hangings while the millefleurs populated with animals were probably more expensive. It indeed appears that the floral background could be produced at faster speeds if woven in smaller squares, which led to the linear divisions between the flowers. Smaller cartoons could thus be easily and frequently re-used.
Millefleurs tapestries were woven quite generically throughout Flanders and attributions to specific weaving centres are nearly impossible unless documentary evidence can be linked to the examples. This tapestry relates to one depicting a dromedary and an unicorn on a similarly conceived ground with hares and various birds, but no weaving centre is identified (J. Boccara, Ames de Laine et de Soie, Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, 1988, p. 81). A tapestry that appears to be woven in a very similar manner, with similar central medallion and a very closely related horizon is in the Saint Louis Art Museum (F. Joubert, La Tapisserie Mèdievale au Musée de Cluny, Paris, 1987, p. 189), while another was sold anonymously Ader Picard Tajan, Paris, 25 March 1977, lot 179. Another vertical panel of very related style is illustrated in A. Gray Bennett, Five Centuries of Tapestry from The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 1992, cat. 19, p. 87. More detailed examples of these millefleurs armorial tapestries can be firmly attributed to Bruges, while the borders of this tapestry would be rather uncharacteristic for that weaving centre (G. Delmarcel, E. Duverger, Bruges et la Tapisserie, exhibition catalogue, Bruges, 1987, pp. 192 - 203).
As Cavallo notes, the uniformity of size of the flowers on the ground may be an indication of when the tapestry was woven. It appears that tapestries woven towards the mid-16th Century depicted the flowers in a slightly more receding manner while the leaves also tend to get larger and be the indicators of the forthcoming feuilles de choux and feuilles d'aristoloche tapestries.
There have been numerous debates whether the inclusion of animals was for a symbolic meaning within the tapestry. If so, the hares may represent fecundity and lust or in a Christian context man's hope in salvation through Christ and his passion, while the falcons above may represent evil thought and a threat to the well-being of the church. The stag on the other hand may symbolise purity of life, solitude and religious aspiration