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He needed a steady paycheck after losing his job teaching Latin in a local high school. They were sent to New York for an exhibition, which never opened. “Each flower, gesture, or accessory was like a prop from a play, all meaningless unless you know what these people were thinking and reading, and I do.” Howie leaned forward in his seat. The family regained possession sixty years later, when the tapestries were recovered in a barn. It was a concept that shaped the rest of his life. The project was inspired by an old inventory of the castle of a hundred tapestries that belonged to James V, including a set described as “unicorn tapestries.” The weavers made periodic visits the Cloisters to study the originals. “Can you take one more story?” Howie asked. But halfway through a Ph.D in classical philology, he felt too overwhelmed to write his dissertation. Still loath to write, Howie made a mental matrix of symbols relevant to the French court around 1500, then used every opportunity he had during the workday to stare at the tapestries as though they were the night sky, searching for constellations. Howie remembered he had a flask of cognac with him. My lecture had to explain the collection in a way that was accessible to the general public while maintaining the highest levels of academic integrity. THE TAPESTRIES. The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, housed at the Musee National de Moyen Age, shows the five senses: Hearing, Sight, Touch, Smell, and Taste.A sixth tile, Love (à mon seul desire) completes the set. The set, on display in the Musée de Cluny in Paris, is often considered one of the greatest works of art of the Middle Ages in Europe. Howie smiled and opened his binder. Generations of Washington Heights residents have believed it’s an abandoned church. Wool and silk, 148 3/8 inches by 183 ½ inches. If no one was available, the visitor was reminded that they could purchase the audio guide. When I opened my office door, I didn’t recognize Howie for a moment. I became fixated on the Unicorn Tapestries, the artwork that made visitors gasp when they suddenly recognized it in the dark gallery. The Lady and the Unicorn. Hank lifted his flashlight to the crucifix hanging overhead, a spotlight on Christ’s face suspended in darkness. Howie, more than twenty years his senior, ran straight out, yelling wahooo, then turned to his side and surfed down the powder paths. I couldn’t resist asking her what she was doing. Uniformed security guards paced across the museum, hands stuffed in their polyester pockets or clasped behind their backs. Replicas of the tapestries were hung on the walls of Gryffindor Tower by the 1990s.1 1 Behind the scenes 2 Appearances 3 External links 4 Notes and references In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 and LEGO Harry Potter: … A rumor spread that he had cancer. In the fifth tapestry we see the lady making a wreath of fresh flowers. “What does the number twelve remind you of … yes, twelve apostles, because the hunt for the unicorn is also an allegory of Christ’s Passion.”. Between 2001 and 2014, the West Dean Tapestry Studio in England was contracted by Historic Scotland to weave a replica of the Unicorn Tapestries for Stirling Castle. The stairs down to Dyckman Street were the quickest route, but they chose the much longer horseshoe path because it gave them more time to talk. One legend says that they were made for the wedding of Prince Zizim who had the tapestry woven for his lady love while he was in prison. They are all reproductions of original tapestry art pieces or oil paintings now displayed in museums and in private collections throughout the world. Miller described how the owners of the extremely expensive Unicorn Tapestries would have seen them infrequently. They would have been kept wrapped in canvas and stored in padlocked boxes where the silk, gold, and silver threads couldn’t be reached by greedy fingers. Now that he was in his own clothes, the beard made him look like a groovy college professor. I looked up to see a security guard with a smile and a shaggy beard that seemed at odds with his uniform. He had already placed a CD inside, Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Their luminosity, mysterious subject matter, and depiction of the unicorn have made them timeless objects of intense debate. The women spun around, relieved to see the bearded security guard grinning. Over the next several months, we discussed all of his ideas about the tapestries. He was amused that the lecturers frequently contradicted one another, and it bothered him that few ever seemed to look at the tapestries, that they took no joy in them. I pointed to the next scene, making everyone quickly turn their heads to see the hunters grab their weapons and chase the unicorn across a stream. A rumor spread that the lecturers had been forbidden to talk to him. However, Scott Miller, the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Met, said yes. he six tapestries made in the course of the story hang in the Musée National du Moyen Age (aka Cluny Museum) in Paris. “How do you explain that?”. The Lady and the Unicorn (French: La Dame a la licorne) also called the Tapestry Cycle is one of the most well known tapestry series. When the French king made his ceremonial entry into Reims, along the carriage route were tableaux vivants, allegorical and historical “living pictures” performed by actors and designed and choreographed by court artists. I feared he was using the tapestries like a giant Rorschach test, seeing symbols in ways that could never be proved or disproved, and I tried to swat away the ideas I thought strayed too far. He was happy to be assigned to the Cloisters, which was so close to his apartment that he could walk to work. They were most likely designed by the “Master of Anne of Brittany” (so called because he designed a book of hours for the French queen, Anne of Brittany), a preeminent artist of the day. He would always call Hank at his post, urging him to come upstairs to see a beautiful sunset or a blood moon. The Lady and the Unicorn was the modern name given to a set of six wool and silk tapestries. Howie was an amateur, a disparaging word in academia, though it derives from the Latin root amare, to love. Guards could direct visitors to the gardens or the bathroom, but were forbidden to speak about the art itself. Five years later, I decided I was long overdue to have a chat with Howie. Security guards were stationed in different galleries throughout the day on assigned rotations. Once, when they left the museum at the beginning of a snowstorm, Hank left the first tracks, all very close together as he tried not to slip and fall. He smiled and held his palms apart as though he was welcoming me into his church for the first time. I imagined his eyes twinkling above his shaggy beard and, though he explained that a minor stroke had aged him, his baritone voice was still round with joy. I wanted to ascend to lecturer, an opportunity that became available to me as I neared completion of my master’s in art history. “Here’s to us, Jean,” he said just before he took a swig. In late 1922, the Unicorn Tapestries disappeared again. On a Monday when the museum was closed to visitors, I wandered up to the Unicorn Tapestries gallery and saw that folding tables had been set up across the oak floors, and on top were maps of the tapestries. The unicorn has somehow transcended the hunt, and is now chained to a tree ripe with pomegranates, a fertility symbol. The seven individual hangings known as "The Unicorn Tapestries," are among the most beautiful and complex works of art from the late Middle Ages that survive. His first day at Fordham University, Howie had discovered the word aesthetics, defined as the science of the beautiful. Scholars hypothesized that it was made to hang behind the bed of a noble couple on their wedding night. Before he was the Met’s director, Thomas Campbell was known among his colleagues as Tapestry Tom. The visitors winced as they observed the hunter’s spear jammed into the unicorn’s side, his tongue falling out the side of his mouth and his eyes rolling backward. A rich American had bought them and transferred them to his bank vault before anyone else could see them. The lion and the unicorn once again feature, lying on their back. The series were discovered in 1841 by Prosper Mérimée in Boussac castle. They fell into a discussion about the tapestries. “It blew my mind,” Howie explained. Among other things, the tapestries represent the five senses. “Fouquet died in 1480, way too early to have worked on the tapestries,” I barked at Howie. Unfortunately, the tapestries had not endured the passage of time well, and showed evidence of having been gnawed at by rats, and were going mouldy. “Come on, Hank!” he called out from the floor. He identified these as symbols in a system that pointed to Anne of Brittany as their owner and decided the tapestries had been made to celebrate her marriage to Louis XII in 1499. One evening, Hank told me, Howie waited until seven, when everyone in the tower was surely gone, then carried the boom box upstairs into the gallery, where a twelfth-century Romanesque apse from Spain had been transplanted to the Cloisters. A unicorn and a lion surround them while presenting the coat of arms of the sponsor, a … And he swore that he would never rest until Jean’s name got out there. “God bless you,” he always said as he gently closed my office door. 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