Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mama's Needlepoints

Mama Marine was my father's mother (born Josephine Piazza on April 12, 1911 in Brooklyn, NY). She was a first generation Italian-American and every family member, no matter what their relation, called her "Mama".

Mama was a great cook, and loved to play the organ (she loved opera, and adored Luciano Pavarotti). Her other passion was her needlepoint work. There was never a time, in all the years that I knew her, when she wasn't working on one piece or another (or several at once). Every relative had one or more of her needlepoints hanging on their walls so that, no matter whose family you were visiting, there was always a wonderful needlepoint to enjoy.

The beautiful needlepoint pictured above, which recreates a famous tapestry hanging in the Musée de Cluny in Paris, is one of her larger works at approximately 40 x 32 inches (click for larger image). Her version hangs above my bed.

About The Original Tapestry - "Smell"

The Lady and the Unicorn tapestry, discovered in 1841 by Prosper Mérimée in Boussac castle, then the subprefect of the Creuse, became an immediate legend thanks to the works of George Sand. Purchased in 1882 by Edmond Du Sommerard, it was the subject of studies which identified its origin, iconography, and style. The tapestry is complete with its six pieces. Five of them illustrate each of the five senses. Fabulous animals, the lion and the unicorn, wear armour which identifies the sponsor as Jean Le Viste, a powerful personage close to King Charles VII. Familiar animals, a rabbit, birds, a monkey, inhabit the background of the tapestries and create a dream-like universe.

"Smell" : the Lady is making a flower chain. Behind her, the monkey once again provides the key to this allegory: he is inhaling the perfume of a rose he stole from her basket.

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