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The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image


The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 36 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image LA BAILLÉE DES ROSES French Tapestry, about 1450. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York See larger image FIFTEENTH CENTURY MILLEFLEUR WITH ARMS

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 37 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 Cathedral of Troyes The great chamber where the body met was for the occasion transformed into a bower; vines and sprays of roses covered all the grim walls, as the straying vines in the tapestry reveal. The host of the day, who might be a foreign prince or cardinal, or one of the “children of France,” began the day with giving a great breakfast which took place in the several chambers. During the feast the noble host paid a courtly visit to each chamber, accompanied by a servitor who bore a huge salver on which were the flowers and souvenirs to be presented. The air was sweet with blossoms and pungent herbs, music penetrated from the halls outside as the man of conspicuous elegance played mock humility and served all with the dainty tribute of a fragrant tender rose. This part of the ceremony over, the company moved on to the great audience chamber, where mass was said. Our tapestries show the figures of ladies and gentlemen present at this pretty ceremony—too pretty to associate with desperate Jeanne d’Arc, who at that very time was rousing France to war to throw off the foreign yoke. The ladies fair and masters bold are intensely human little people, for the most part paired off in couples as men and women have been wont to pair in gardens since Eden’s time. They are dressed in their best, that is evident, and by their distant, courteous manners show good society. The faces of the ladies are childlike, dutiful; those of the men more determined, after the manner of men. But the interest of the set centres in the tableau wherein are but three figures, those of two men and a woman. Here lies a piquant romance. Who is she, the grand and gracious lady, bending like a lily stalk among the roses, with a man on either side? A token is being exchanged between her and the supplicant at her right. He, wholly elegant, half afraid, bends the knee and fixes her with a regard into which his whole soul is thrown. She, fair lady, is inclining, yet withdrawing, eyes of fear and modesty cast down. Yet whatever of temerity the faces tell, the hands are carrying out a comedy. Hid in the shadow of a copious hat, which the gentleman extends, lurks a rose; proffered by the lady’s hand is a token—fair exchange, indeed, of lover’s symbols—provided the strong, hard man to the left of the lady has himself no right of command over her and her favours. Thus might one dream on forever over history’s sweets and romance’s gallantries. It is across the sea, in the sympathetic Museum of Cluny that the beauty of early French work is exquisitely demonstrated. The set of The Lady and the Unicorn is one of infinite charm. (Plates facing pages 44 and 45.) In its enchanted wood lives a noble lady tall and fair, lithe, young and elegant, with attendant maid and two faithful, fabulous beasts that uphold the standards of maidenhood. A simple circle denotes the boundary of the enchanted land wherein she dwells, a park with noble trees and lovely flowers, among which disport the little animals that associate themselves with mankind. For four centuries these hangings have delighted the eye of man, and are perhaps more than ever appreciated now. Certain it is that the art student’s easel is often set before them for copying the quaint design and soft colour.

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