The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: March 2020

It’s said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The Collation‘s March 2020 Crocodile Mystery, however, comes in with a unicorn and stag, and the following questions: what is this object, and why is it two-tone?

3 Comments


  • You’ve got to give us a fair chance – from that image it’s barely possible to determine the material of the object, never mind anything else!
    Anyway, the line doesn’t look completely straight, so if I had to take a wild guess I’d say it’s some sort of fading caused either by one edge having been folded over (if it’s some sort of tapestry or other type of fabric, like a canvas) or by a somewhat irregularly-shaped object or objects, e.g. a row of books or a cushion, having been placed in front (if it’s a painted panel or part of a fresco). If I wanted to take an even wilder guess, I’d say the former is more likely, because some sections of the image appear to have vertical and horizontal lines that *might* indicate a very finely woven material, which would support the idea that it’s a tapestry. No idea why someone would want to fold away the stag and the unicorn and fold the writing in half, though. Maybe a later owner had a smaller house than the person the tapestry was originally made for, so it didn’t quite fit the walls? Either way, this looks like the bottom edge, so the main motif was presumably of more interest to them.
    Oh, and the writing appears to be in German or Dutch – probably the latter, because I can’t make sense of some of the words.

  • I think this tapestry was once folded up, and the topmost fold exposed to sunlight. This faded the exposed part of the tapestry, whilst the rest (which was protected from the light) did not fade.

  • Yes, what Ed said–it definitely looks like tapestry that’s faded. I recall that the unicorn tapestries now at the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris were found rolled up in a barn. Perhaps this one suffered a similar fate?


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