A tour de force of history and imagination, The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier's answer to the mystery behind one of the art world's great masterpiecesa set of bewitching medieval tapestries that hangs today in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They appear to portray the seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknownuntil now.
Paris, 1490. A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the housemother and daughter, servant, and lady-in-waitingbefore taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven. There, master weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has to finish the tapestrieshis finest, most intricate workon time for his exacting French client. The results change all their liveslives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look.
In The Lady and the Unicorn, Tracy Chevalier weaves fact and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestryan extraordinary story exquisitely told.
Tracy Chevalier's approach to fiction is so methodical that she threatens to turn writing about art into a science. Her latest novel, like her Girl With a Pearl Earring, selects a masterpiece and then weaves a story to describe its provenance.
In the case of The Lady and the Unicorn, Ms. Chevalier quite literally goes to the loom: tapestry-weaving provides her inspiration this time. The book takes its title from the famous series of medieval tapestries at the Musée National du Moyen Age in Paris. Conveniently, not much is known about their origins. So Ms. Chevalier begins with the name of the family that commissioned them and with the symbolic import of the unicorn's horn. She's off and running from there. Janet Maslin