Ermine

High quality fur. Depicted in a medieval portrait at the National Library in Paris as the virginal ermine of Saint Catherine, and in the famous 1807 painting The Consecration of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David in the Louvre as the imperial ermine, it stands for purity and royalty. These two concepts, so different and yet so similar, have probably always been associated with this type of fur. Due to its purity, it has deserved to be part of the most spiritual garments. Due to its preciousness and beauty, it decorated the robes that Venetian nobleman and judges of the 1200s wore during solemn ceremonies, was an essential element of the sumptuous elegance of the cloaks worn by the Doges in the 1400s, and was on a par with purple, silk, and gold in its use by royalty. A brave and aggressive animal of the forest, the ermine (Mustela Erminea) changes color with the seasons. In Summer it is reddish brown, with the belly part a whitish color. In Winter, with the exception of the tip of the tail, which remains black, it becomes completely white, dazzling on the snow, in which it camouflages itself to hide from enemies. Found mainly in the northern hemisphere, it lives in very different environments in Europe, Asia, and North America. The animal owes its name — as indicated by its Latin etymology, armenius — to the incorrect belief that Armenia was its original home. It appears more likely that Armenians were the first to trade the fur, or that Europeans found the fur in this region before the discovery of the New World. The ermine, which is most valuable with its white Winter coat, has strong fur but rather frail skin, which is why it is often preferred in white. Thus it has maintained, along with its extraordinary lightness, the aura of a rare, refined, and delicate fur, known most widely through Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine, in which it symbolizes the virtues of moderation and kindness. Those which, after all, are its qualities as well.