Vision of Placidus – a project for the distant future…

Pisanello "Vision of St Eustace" (Image from Wikipedia)
Pisanello “Vision of St Eustace” (Image from Wikipedia)

Lately I have been re-reading a favourite book, “The Herb of Grace” by Elizabeth Goudge. In it, her fictional family discover in their house – a medieval Pilgrim Inn – an ancient fresco, depicting the conversion of Placidus. It is described as being very like Pisanello’s “Vision of St Eustace”, now in the National Gallery – Placidus changed his name when he converted to Christianity – but with the local wood and its animals forming the background. In fact, so enchanted was the fictional artist by the local wildlife that he filled every gap in the trees with animals, even putting land animals in the sky to fit them all in.

 La Dame à la licorne. (Image from Wikipedia)
La Dame à la licorne. (Image from Wikipedia)

It is this element that appealed to me, as it is reminiscent in some ways of my favourite textile, in my favourite museum in all the world – La Dame à la licorne, in the Musée de Cluny in Paris. This is a set of medieval tapestries, depicting the mythological hunt for the unicorn, and the set is displayed in a circular room, with a set of steps down into it. When I first saw it, I sat down very suddenly on the steps, and didn’t move or speak for a good ten minutes, which gravely disconcerted my companion at the time. I’ve since dragged various friends and relations there, too, just to give myself another opportunity to visit the tapestries, not to mention visiting the Gobelins Manufactory in order to find out how such tapestries were made!

One day, I would like to create my own panel, linking La Dame à la licorne with the Vision of St Eustace. There are so many textures – the fur and feathers of the animals and birds, the splendid trappings of Placidus’ horse and his own clothes, the forest trees and flowers, and the rocky outcrop where the stag turned to face him. Just think of the wonderful variety of stitches and threads I could use!

10 thoughts on “Vision of Placidus – a project for the distant future…

  1. What a gorgeous idea and an inspiring project! I’m assuming you mean to use something like the Pisanello as your cartoon?

  2. this will be a huge task but I am sure it will be fascinating too….can’t wait to watch this develop.

  3. What a coincidence. I had the same reaction when I first saw that very same tapestry, in the same place. I had never seen such beauty. I went to the gallery not knowning what was in it whilst in Paris on a business trip. I bought a copy of part of the tapestry (in canvas work) to stitch but it still sits rolled up on the shelf. For me nothing can be so beautiful as the original.

    I like big ideas. Your’s is beautiful.

  4. This is one of my favorite tapestries also. I especially love her face. What a wonderful project this would be for you – and for us since we’d get to travel the adventure with you.

  5. I really can relate to your tapestry experience – the first time I saw a full size Monet ‘Nympheas’ at the Musee Marmottan, I did something very similar! What a stunning project that would be! I do feel Elizabeth Goudge is very underrated these days. My favourite is ‘The Dean’s Watch’ – a book that lingers with you.

  6. And I would love to follow along on this journey! What a trip it will be! I felt a similar way to the Lady and the Unicorn…and I can only imagine how enchanting it would have lived 500 years ago when the variety and sheer numbers of animals was greater. I’ll have to check out the novel. Would you recommend it?

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