Friday, 25 January 2019

What the...??!!


A mysterious scene showing a barefoot queen riding a lion. Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

What the heck is going on in the scene shown in this fragment of tapestry hanging above a fireplace in the Chateau of Langeais?

Dominating the picture is a woman in an off the shoulder cat suit decorated with a squiggly pattern that might be snakes. She is barefoot but wears a crown, so is presumably a queen, and she is riding a lion sidesaddle and holding a hawk perched on her arm. Her bearded male companion is dressed in a similar garment, also barefoot. The pattern on his cat suit looks more like eels (or maybe lampreys...that would be good and medieval...). But on the other hand, the patterns may represent locks of hair -- after all, there is a close resemblance to the lion's mane.

Closer inspection reveals that these two characters appear twice in the tapestry. In the upper left the woman is standing, gripping the shoulders of the man beside her, who is holding a long weapon of some sort. Clearly a story is being told, cartoon style. The ribbon of text should help us interpret the images, but unfortunately it doesn't make much sense and the only words I can make out are maybe 'balde.win' and 'us.de walde.'.

The pair are heading for a castle gatehouse. I feel sure the impression that the tower has eyes that are watching them is deliberate. And there is a trumpeter on the roof, with a pennant showing clasped gauntlets.

There is no information provided about the tapestry piece, which I would guess means the curators are as mystified as me. Like I said, 'What the...??!!'

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11 comments:

  1. Something about soon (balde) we're coming (wir kummern) out of the woods (us der walde)? On n'est pas sorti de l'auberge?

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    1. Ooooo! Thanks Ken! Still doesn't match any medieval story I can find though.

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  2. That's an image of a lion. The squiggles are it's mane.

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  3. It is possible that the tapestry represents the announcement by Isabeau of Bavaria, queen regent of France, of the Treaty of Troyes (1420) between Henry V of England and the mad king Charles VI of France. It was a very troubled period in France and the treaty aimed at ending the Hundred Years War and the civil war between Armagnacs and Bourguignons.
    The "caption" is in German, Isabeau's native language; she rides a Lion symbol of England. The small bird on her hand looks like a dove,the tree in the background is an olive tree; both symbols of peace. A handshake in the upper right corner next to the trumpet indicates some sort of agreement. Both the queen and the bearded man are bare-footed which is a sign of penance. Both their clothes are blue which is the royal colour in the 15th century. The man seems to be holding a ceremonial mace like a king. Based on these clues I think the tapestry could represent Isabeau of Bavaria (at the time exiled at Marmoutier near Tours)and her husband the mad king.

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    1. Whoah JLM!! I'm impressed. Very smart interpreting of the image. I noted the bare feet and was thinking penance in the religious sense. It didn't occur to me that the bird might be other than a small falcon such as ladies flew, or that the tree might be a specific tree. I did wonder if the clasped gloves signified a union or friendship of some sort. Any thoughts on why they are wearing the weird catsuits?

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  4. Very impressed JLM... One for future visits Susan..

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    1. JLM is one of this blogs greatest secret resources. I should have just emailed him in the first place :-)

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  5. Some thoughts on the weird catsuits. The bearded man wears a pourpoint (top) and chausses (bottom) a normal attire for a male of the nobility in the 15th century . On the left side of the tapestry he seems to be standing on one leg, and the colour of his clothes looks washed out. On the ride side he stands on both legs and his clothes look brighter. He seems to point the way to the lady behind him. This could indicate a radical change in his life, from weakness to power. The woman riding sidesaddle wears a one-piece suit. The top shows her bare shoulders (femininity) but she shows her legs wearing the chausses of a man. If she is Isabeau of Bavaria she is saying: I am a woman (queen) doing a man’s job (regent). Her message is clear: she wears the pants (or the trousers) I agree with Susan that this is a cartoon, a medieval political cartoon.

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    1. A jolly expensive cartoon though. Presumably commissioned by someone to whom this story meant a lot. I wonder what the date of the tapestry is? I'd be surprised if it was contemporary with the events you think it shows, but maybe mid 15C. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this little intrigue.

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  6. Been doing some digging. I now think the scene depicted could be a fragment of a tapestry of the Legend of the Count of Savoy. Check out the costumes in this version: Legend of the Count of Savoy. A brief internet search has not revealed what that legend actually was though (didn't have time to pursue further at the moment). Any further thoughts JLM?

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