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The Unicorn Defends Himself

The Unicorn Defends Himself



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Talk:The Hunt of the Unicorn

There may be symbolism for the ayahuasca ceremony and also the amanita muscaria ceremony in the tapestry. The initials that are bound by rope may be representative of ayahuasca (the capital A and the rope) and amanita muscaria (the reversed capital E). This is because the "negative" space of the Aleph (the open space between the two vertical bars of the A) is actually the rightside-up leaf of the Psychotria viridis plant, as seen on its wikipedia page, here. The rope is a depiction of Banisteriopsis caapi, which takes the form of rope when dried, as seen here. Banisteriopsis caapi acts as an MAOI for the N,N-Dimethyltryptamine naturally occurring in the Psychotria viridis. The reversed E is obviously a sideways cross-section of an amanita muscaria mushroom. I argue that the tapestries depict the psychedelic experience of doing ayahuasca and amanita muscaria at the same time. Thus, the tapestries may act as part of a shamanic ritual involving consumption of the two entheogens.There are also blatant inebriological symbols in the fountain found in The Unicorn is Found. First, the dual spring represents the recycling of body fluids that occurs during the amanita muscaria ceremony, particularly the imbibing of urine that occurs as a filtering and concentration of the psychoactive elements in consumed amanita muscaria. (Source: The Pharmacratic Inquisition 01:01:55) The fountain water streams out of the fountain from a puking lion's mouth. Puking is perhaps a reference to the ayahuasca ceremony in which puking is often unavoidable and an accepted ("Vomiting can follow ayahuasca ingestion this purging is considered by many shamans and experienced users of ayahuasca to be an essential part of the experience, as it represents the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one's life." source). The unicorn that purifies the stream is therefore symbolically the shaman. This research is public domain. 24.255.255.94 (talk) 23:08, 17 January 2016 (UTC)

This "research" is just verbose scholarship vanishing up its own arsehole. Nuttyskin (talk) 00:22, 5 July 2017 (UTC)

I wouldn't say "thousands of years" about Christianity for the obvious reason, but can't think of a better way to phrase that. --Kizor 23:12, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

tried a simple fix --agr 23:50, 23 October 2005 (UTC)

I added some images, but I don't think I ordered or captioned them correctly. Please fix. Also, find an image for the seventh tapestry. - Peregrine Fisher 08:42, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Where are these tapestries from? (are they Flemish?) Who made them? This should be stated in the very first sentence. Their modern history is by definition of secondary importance. Aviad2001 09:30, 28 July 2007 (UTC)

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Furthermore, the passage, "Has several intentional allusions to the Hindu goddess Kali Ma, . " is based on nonsense: there is no evidence that anyone in Europe at this time had anything but the sketchiest and most distorted idea of Indian culture whatsoever. Nuttyskin (talk) 00:30, 5 July 2017 (UTC)

There are several allusions to Kali Ma and Hindu religion in tapestry 6. Silk, textiles as well as Indigo dye had been imported from India via the Silk road and these commodities were essential to the production of tapestries which utilized silk and dye for the manufacture of said tapestries. The silk road which connected China, South Asian countries such as India and several other countries with Europe and the Mediterranean had been bringing spice and textiles to Europe for nearly 1500 years. [1] Unicursive (talk) 00:11, 30 October 2017 (UTC)

Yes, materials and pigments. But the first Europe had any cultural awareness of India was not until the time of the East India Company in the 16th Century. This, despite well-documented links between Ancient Greece and India (e.g., Hindu astrology). Yet only during the years of direct cultural exchange do we see any concrete evidence of Indian culture influencing Europe.Nuttyskin (talk) 04:12, 1 November 2017 (UTC) Agreed. This is amateur OR. Johnbod (talk) 04:52, 1 November 2017 (UTC)

The article presently lists the titles as:

  1. The Start of the Hunt
  2. The Unicorn at the Fountain
  3. The Unicorn Attacked
  4. The Unicorn Defending Himself
  5. The Unicorn Is Captured by the Virgin (two fragments)
  6. The Unicorn Killed and Brought to the Castle
  7. The Unicorn in Captivity

But the Met's website has different titles, namely:

  1. The Hunters Enter the Woods (37.80.1)
  2. The Unicorn Purifies Water (37.80.2)
  3. The Unicorn Crosses a Stream (37.80.3)
  4. The Unicorn Defends Himself (37.80.4)
  5. The Unicorn Surrenders to a Maiden (38.51.1)
  6. The Hunters Return to the Castle (37.80.5)
  7. The Unicorn Rests in a Garden (37.80.6)

The reference for the titles currently in the article is from 1941 should the titles be updated to reflect what is currently on the website? Umimmak (talk) 21:12, 2 August 2020 (UTC)


The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries Depict a “Virgin-Capture Legend”

They’re big in elementary school, but unicorn tableaux also have a complex iconographic history that combines religious and secular myths.

When the dismissal bell rings at our neighborhood elementary school, unicorns are everywhere. They’re prancing on my daughter’s matching backpack and lunchbox, dangling, sequined, on keychains. They’re on dresses and shirts and folders and on the covers of books for new readers. Unicorn horns, often in the center of synthetic rainbow manes, protrude from sneakers, wool hats, headbands, and bike helmets. Some of the unicorns have wings. All of them are cheery and bright, exuding a combination of whimsy, harmlessness, and purity.

While unicorns seem to be enjoying a resurgence among the four-to-eight-year-old set, they’re certainly not new. And, while unicorns’ earliest stories include an alchemical power to purify water and grant eternal youth, the breadth of unicorn mythology is more complicated than the array of children’s products on display at the playground suggests.

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In ancient China, the unicorn (called the qilin) was said to appear at the birth of a sage. In the fifth century BCE, Greek historian Ctesias described the three-color pattern of the mystical creature and its single horn. The scholar Francesca Tagliatesta points out that Ctesias almost certainly borrowed from Persian stories dating to the ninth through eighth centuries BCE.

A qilin from China, c. 1750 via Wikimedia Commons

Representations of a rhinoceros-like creature or of a single-horned horse, goat, or even wolf appear on statues, pottery, mosaics, and tapestries from India to Africa to Europe. These creatures have by turn—and somewhat paradoxically—been associated with purity, fertility, seduction, healing, sacrifice, immortality, divinity, and, by the time of the Renaissance in Europe, were seen as a metaphor for Christ himself.

Among the most iconic representations of unicorns are the tapestries on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters. The seven panels in The Hunt of the Unicorn tell the story of a royal hunt and capture of a white unicorn. The exact date of the tapestries’ creation is unknown. Writing about the Museum’s acquisition of the pieces, Metropolitan Museum of Art conservator Kathrin Colburn estimates their origin in the southern Netherlands between 1495 and 1500, possibly a celebration of the marriage of Anne of Brittany and Louis XII. In the late fifteenth century, details like the type of flowers in the background, the symbols on robes and shields, and the choreography of the hunting party would have conveyed both Christian and secular symbolic meanings.

The Hunters Enter the Woods via JSTOR

When these tapestries were commissioned, the secular and religious narratives about unicorns had just begun to come together. Writing for Mythlore on the history of the unicorn’s connection with romance, sexuality, and marriage, romance writer Teresa Noelle Roberts also suggests that the tapestries were commissioned in honor of the marriage between Anne of Brittany and Louis XII. In tracing the history of the unicorn’s iconographic connection to what she calls the “Virgin-Capture legend,” Roberts credits poet and classicist Robert Graves with first articulating the connection between the unicorn and virginal purity: :

The unicorn represented the moon in its struggle against its enemy, the sun lion… [which Graves] traces back to legends about the ancient Great Goddess who was both the moon-goddess and the goddess of wisdom. In this context, the virgin who captures the unicorn represents the Great Goddess “capturing” the seeker of truth.

By the time of the tapestries, that Virgin-Capture legend had come to be most commonly understood in a narrative framed in the tradition of actual royal stag hunts. In the unicorn version, however, hunters wishing to capture a unicorn had to lure it to the forest with a naked virgin tied to a tree. Here, either due to its arousal by the maiden or its purity matching hers, the unicorn could be subdued and then captured. In some myths the unicorn sucks on the virgin’s breasts and falls asleep with what Roberts euphemistically terms “his horn in a very symbolic position.” In other versions of this legend, the unicorn’s attraction to virgins is explained in terms of opposing humours: the “lewd” unicorn is drawn to the virgin’s purity (rather than her sexuality), and the elusive creature is finally captured because of the virgin’s “aura of chastity.”

The Unicorn is Found via JSTOR

When the tapestries were commissioned, Christians had adapted the mythical animal to fit narratives about Christ. The King James Bible translates the Hebrew word re’em, often understood by contemporary Biblical scholars to refer to the two-horned oryx, as unicorn. Saint Basil claimed that “the unconquerable nature of God is likened to that of a unicorn,” and Saint Ambrose inquired “who is the Unicorn but the only begotten son of God?” Roberts explains that common thinking posited that “God was born on earth in the person of Jesus Christ through the Virgin Mary. In effect, He, like the unicorn, was captured by a maiden.”

Somewhat surprisingly, though, as unicorn iconography became increasingly aligned with Christian theology (the horn was compared to the cross, the sacrifice of the unicorn compared to Christ’s death, the unicorn’s power to purify to Christ as the redeemer), romantic and sexual elements of unicorn stories remained and often coexisted with the religious allegory in a single story or piece of art.

The Unicorn Defends Itself via JSTOR

In “Plant Symbolism in the Unicorn Tapestries,” the art historian Eleanor Marquand points out that, like unicorn mythology more generally, the rich botanical symbols in the Cloister tapestries draw from both religious and secular traditions. She highlights the Christian significance of plants like holly and hawthorn, associated with Jesus’s crown of thorns and rowan trees (often planted in church yards). At the same time, many of the plants in the tapestries, apple, oak, hazel, and pomegranate trees, convey a secular rather than religious or explicitly Christian meaning.

The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn via JSTOR

Several of the seven tapestries feature a tree as a focal point, and Marquand sees this arrangement as particularly representative of the ways secular and spiritual symbolism comes together in the series, reading the trees as evoking both the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (in the Garden of Eden) and the more universal Tree of Life seen in mythology and folklore across a variety of cultures.

Writing for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, curator emeritus of the Cloisters Margaret B. Freeman offers similarly detailed, if occasionally divergent, theories for many of the more than 100 plants depicted in the tapestries. The Bulletin also provides specific analysis of the humans and animals involved in the narrative that both deepen and complicate the tapestries’ use of secular and religious tradition. Freeman analyzes details like the roles of the people hunting the unicorn, the Latin inscription on a sword, and even the changing facial expressions of the hunters, unicorn, and maiden as the hunt unfolds, to lay out parallel allegorical meanings.

The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle via JSTOR

On the one hand, the tapestries can be read as an allegory of Christ, first pursued, then killed, then reborn. At the same time, the tapestries function as a marriage story. “Here,” Freeman writes of the final panel, “the unicorn may be interpreted as the risen Christ in the midst of a Paradise garden. However, since he is collared and chained to a tree it is also an image of the lover-bridegroom, at last secured by his adored lady, his bride… [in] the finale to the allegorical love hunt described by medieval poets and writers.”

In the penultimate tapestry, before the unicorn is either resurrected like Christ or chained, a trope where marriage is seen as a man’s entrapment by the wiles of a maiden, the creature is pierced by a spear and blood drips down his white front as snarling hunters look on. When my daughter, then in kindergarten, saw this panel at the Cloisters, she observed it evenly, but that night when I made a passing comparison between the unicorn in the tapestries and the stuffed animal on her bed, she looked at me, horrified. Don’t say that, she said. That unicorn, she told me, was hurt.

The Unicorn in Captivity via JSTOR

So many of the stories we tell children are much more frightening and violent, or at least more complicated, than we acknowledge. Fairy tales, like so many of the stories in scripture, involve orphaned children, neglect, violence, abuse, death, forced marriage, and rape, and so perhaps it ought not to be surprising to see a creature whose mythology is inseparable from stories of lust and power and violence ubiquitous on products marketed to children. Perhaps what’s stranger than the popularity of unicorns with small children is our collective, but unspoken, societal agreement to sanitize the symbols and archetypes we show children. We strip them of the very conflict that makes them collectively fascinating.

You won’t find this rare creature there, but there are hundreds of gorgeous images of unicorns on JSTOR.


What Do the Unicorn Tapestries Represent?

The first piece of the Unicorn Tapestries is known as The Start of the Hunt or The Hunters Enter the Woods . In this tapestry, a group of five men are seen. Three of the men are standing together, the one in the center being the seigneur of the hunt, and the two beside him probably his guests.

The other two men are the attendants of the hunters. There is also a smaller figure of a man in the background, possible a scout of the hunting party, and hunting dogs are also depicted in the tapestry. The figures are set against a faunal background, like the rest of the tapestries.

The first tapestry of the Unicorn Tapestries - The Start of the Hunt or The Hunters Enter the Woods. (The Public Domain Review / Public Domain )

In the Start of the Hunt , the entire background is covered in trees with dark green leaves and flowers. Scholars have identified 101 species of plants in the Unicorn Tapestries, 85 of which are found in this first tapestry. The foliage in this tapestry serves not only an aesthetic purpose, but a symbolic one as well.

As an example, the walnut is supposed to be a symbol for Christ. The outer sheath is supposed to represent Christ’s flesh, the shell, the cross on which he was crucified, and the kernel, his divinity. Alternatively, the walnut may be considered to be a sign of durability.

While the first piece of the Unicorn Tapestry presents the hunter, the second one introduces the hunted. This piece is called The Unicorn at the Fountain , and is known alternatively as The Unicorn is Found , and The Unicorn Cleanses the Stream of Poison with its Horn . The central figure of this scene is the unicorn, a mythological animal which may be described as a horse with a single horn on its forehead.

In Europe, the earliest description of the unicorn is found in the writings of Ctesias, a Greek historian and physician who lived during the 5th century BC. In his Indica (now lost, but preserved as excerpts by other ancient writers), Ctesias wrote that in India, there were “wild asses as large as horses, or even larger”. The body of these animals was white, their head dark red, their eyes bluish, and “have a horn in their forehead about a cubit in length”.

Ctesias goes on to describe the creature’s horn and its magical property, “The lower part of the horn, for about two palms distance from the forehead, is quite white, the middle is black, the upper part, which terminates in a point, is a very flaming red. Those who drink out of cups made from it are proof against convulsions, epilepsy, and even poison, provided that before or after having taken it they drink some wine or water or other liquid out of these cups”.

In The Unicorn at the Fountain , the unicorn is shown sticking its horn into a stream of water and may be an allusion to its anti-poison property of its horn, as mentioned by Ctesias. Like the first tapestry, various plants can be seen in this one, and are connected to the magical property of the unicorn’s horn. There is, for instance, sage, which is believed to function against poisons, in silhouette against the fountain.

An orange tree is also depicted in the lower right of the tapestry. It was believed that orange seeds in hot water and wine provided resistance against poisons. Additionally, there are various animals around the unicorn, including lions, a stag, rabbits, and pheasants, each of which have their own symbolism.

The second tapestry of the Uni corn Tapestries - The Unicorn at the Fountain . (The Public Domain Review / Public Domain )

Interestingly, those who argue that the Unicorn Tapestries were commissioned to celebrate a marriage point to such elements as the orange tree and rabbits, both of which were regarded to be fertility symbols. Finally, one can see that the unicorn is surrounded by the hunters.

The third piece of the tapestry is entitled The Unicorn is Attacked or The Unicorn Leaps into the Stream . The hunt is underway and the unicorn leaps into the stream in an attempt to escape from the hunters. The pomegranate tree makes an appearance in this scene.

On the one hand, it could be seen as a symbol of fertility, and on the other, a Christian symbol . The former dates to pre-Christian times , while the latter, can be taken as a symbol of Christ, where one has to open the fruit, and to look inside, so as to understand His suffering.

The third tapestry of the Uni corn Tapestries - The Unicorn is Attacked or The Unicorn Leaps into the Stream . (The Public Domain Review / Public Domain )

The next tapestry is known as The Unicorn Defends Itself and shows the creature fighting back against its pursuers. A hunting dog is gored by the unicorn’s horn, while one of the hunters is kicked. Lots of fruit and nut trees, including cherry, orange, walnut, strawberry, and peach, are depicted in this scene. Once again, these may be interpreted as symbols of fertility , in line with the view that the tapestries were a wedding gift.

The fourth tapestry of the Uni corn Tapestries - The Unicorn Defends Itself . (The Public Domain Review / Public Domain )


The Unicorn Tapestry

Corra, Diana’s familiar, was clinging to the minstrels’ gallery with her talons, chattering madly and clacking her tongue. She waved hello to Matthew with her barbed tail, piercing a priceless tapestry depicting a unicorn in a garden. Matthew winced.

The Book of Life, chapter 2, page 17.

The Unicorn Tapestries are some of the most famous late medieval artworks in the world. (And some of my favourites!) The set in the Cloisters (part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC) depict the hunt & capture of the unicorn the set in the Musée de Cluny in Paris represent an allegory of the senses. (The Lady & The Unicorn also grace the walls of the Gryffindor Common Room!)

Both cycles are known for their mille fiori, with many of the flowers and herbs depicted recognisable to the modern eye. The Cloisters tapestries alone feature 101 different plants, of which 85 have been positively identified. These include cherry, walnut, English daisy, strawberry, daffodil, orange, marigold, pansy, and oak. Rose (symbolic of the Virgin Mary), hawthorn (a reference to Christ’s crown of thorns), and pomegranate (symbolic of fertility and the Church) also appear alongside primrose, hazelnut, English bluebell, and carnation.

Barbara Freeman has argued that the designers of the Cloisters tapestries were likely either of Netherlandish heritage or familiar with Netherlandish traditions working in France. They date from c. 1500 based on the clothing and weapons depicted. Predominantly wool threads, silk and silver threads were also used to provide highlights throughout the series. Three plant dyes were used: weld (yellow, from the stalks and leaves of the plant), madder (red, from the roots of plants at least two years old), and woad (blue, from the leaves of the plants). All of the colours evident in the tapestry are made from a combination of the three base pigments and/or the use of different mordants (chemicals used to open the threads allowing for greater colour penetration), including zinc and aluminum. To make colours darker, for instant, zinc was used as the main mordant.


The Healing Properties of the Unicorn

People believed the horn could purify liquids, and the purified liquid could cure anyone who had been poisoned (Ryan 2012: 55). Scholars also believed this magical liquid could cure epilepsy, a condition Joan el Caçador of Aragon suffered from (Ryan 2012: 55). This particular king loved hunting but he was also interested in astrology and alchemy. He was also desperate to own a unicorn’s horn (Ryan 2012: 51).

Scholars have indicated Joan’s interest in possessing a horn as being symptomatic of his flightiness as a monarch. Yet Michael A. Ryan explains that it also shows an attempt to exercise his authority. He was willing to throw the might of the state behind his desire to own the horn (2012: 52). In the medieval era, the fantastic or monstrous did not seem quite so far away.

Yet his epilepsy means his quest for the horn doesn’t seem quite so outlandish. The Count of Armangac sent a piece of unicorn horn to Joan. He poisoned two dogs and touched one with the horn. According to reports, the dog not touched with the horn died, while the other lived (Ryan 2012: 56). Joan went on to ‘cure’ subjects who’d been poisoned.

Sold as Powder

Even Nicholas Culpeper advocated for the medicinal powers of unicorn horn. He claimed it also ‘provoked urine’, restored vitality, and helped bring on a birth (Turgeon 2020).

Carolyn Turgeon points out the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, founded in 1617, features two unicorns on its crest. Surprisingly, many apothecaries sold “powdered unicorn horn” (2020). It clearly wasn’t unicorn horn. Some horns came from narwhals (Clayton-Lea 1989: 466), while others may have belonged to other antlered animals such as the oryx.

Narwhal by AE Brehm / Public domain

Yet it wasn’t just the horn that had healing properties. Hildegard of Bingen believed unicorn liver, mixed with egg yolks, could cure leprosy – unless God didn’t want the leper to be cured. She also believed that you could wear a belt of unicorn hide to save yourself from pestilence (Turgeon 2020). Who knows what animals they used as stand-ins for unicorn liver and hide?


The Unicorn Defends Itself

The huntsmen in the medieval tapestries depicting the unicorn hunt are clearly hunting par force or by coursing. Meaning that they use sighthounds, not only scent hounds, to pursue the prey.

In the fourth tapestry of the unicorn cycle, the dogs and the huntsman have caught up with the unicorn, but to little avail. The beast is fierce and fights off its attackers successfully. Its horn pierces one hound’s breast, likely killing it. Who knows what further wounds the unicorn inflicts before it charges away through the forest?

In order to write my short story, The Hunt of the Unicorn, I needed to learn more about coursing as it was done in medieval times.

Fortunately, there are several books from the time period detailing exactly how the hunt proceeded. And I found a modern-day enthusiast who devotes a website to the topic.

The “Great Hunt” of the Middle Ages was an elaborate affair with distinct and multiple stages.

The Preparation

The day before the hunt, the huntmaster sallies forth to talk with foresters and woodsmen.

From them he learns what game is available and where each beast lay overnight. He hears accounts of what the foresters know regarding the probable size of the animal. The noblemen participating in the hunt want a large, strong adversary.

The Gathering

The whole of the hunting party sets out the next day: noblemen, huntmaster, huntsmen, dog handlers (berners), mews boys, etc.

While the noblemen enjoy an al fresco meal, the huntmaster sends his huntsmen out to the lays he learned of the day before. There each huntsman records the size of the animal’s hoofprint by breaking a small stick and collects the fumes (droppings).

The huntsmen bring their sticks and fumes back to the huntmaster, who evaluates them to determine the potential prey, one that is large and ‘in fat.’

The huntmaster chooses which beast they will hunt, and that focuses their attention. They will not break off from pursuit of that animal to chase another.

Placing the Sighthounds

Once the prey is chosen, three relays of three sighthounds, each relay accompanied by a berner, are placed along the probable route that the pursuit will take.

Then a special tracking dog called a lymer is set to work. (He is a scent hound, not a sighthound.) It is his job to find and move the prey animal. He works on a leash or ‘line’ held by his keeper.

Once the prey has been located and moved to the start of the planned route, the hunt proper begins.

Loose the Raches

Twelve or twenty-four scent hounds called raches are loosed to chase the prey, exhausting it both through the length of its running flight and through the fear induced by the baying of the dogs.

The noblemen follow on horseback, at times wounding the prey animal with their swords or spears. Bows and arrows are not used.

If the raches lose the scent, the lymer is brought forward again to locate and move the prey.

Loose the Sighthounds

As the hunt draws past the first relay of sighthounds, these dogs are released. They are very fast, very strong, and fierce fighters. They sprint to bring the prey animal down.

But, often, the prey is equally fast, equally strong, and equally fierce. It escapes. Or it fights successfully and then escapes.

(This is the moment depicted in the fourth tapestry shown at the beginning of this post.)

So the hunt goes onward in pursuit. And when they pass the next relay of sighthounds, this second relay is loosed.

The End of the Hunt

In the medieval myth about the unicorn, the huntsmen and their hounds cannot succeed. The unicorn is too fierce for them. It is only by the involvement of a maiden that the fabulous beast can be subdued.

But most hunts of hares, deer, or even boar could succeed. If the first relay of sighthounds did not pull the prey down, then the second or third would.

The dogs were not allowed to kill the animal. They were pulled off, and one of the noblemen would slay the beast with his sword, dagger, or spear.

The animal would be skinned and disemboweled, the dogs given their share, and the remainder sent to the castle kitchens to be made into dishes for feasting.

Modern-day Ethics

All of the above likely seems brutal to our modern sensibilities. We can imagine rather vividly what it might be like to be the prey animal suffering a chase to its death.

But the medieval hunters were the culmination of a long history of hunting and coursing—millennia—to provide for the table. Without hunting, there was not enough food for them or their families. And like humans will in every time and place when a job has to be done, they made it serve as entertainment as well.

Many nations in our modern world have outlawed coursing, deeming it cruel and inhumane.

Lure coursing, in which a mechanically operated artificial lure is ‘hunted,’ keeps alive some of the pageantry and tradition of the medieval hunt, and the specially bred skills of the magnificent sighthounds, without putting an innocent prey animal through torture.


Acquisition and Damage

We are incredibly lucky to have all 7 of the tapestries nearly intact. For at least 50 years during and after the French Revolution, the tapestries were lost. They were rediscovered in the 1850s in a barn, and scholars believe it is during this period that the tapestries sustained the most damage, including the 5th tapestry, which is now only in fragments. Upon its discovery it was taken back by the Rochefoucald family, who have connections to the tapestries in their ancestral records. The first written record of the tapestries’ existence can be found in the family’s 1728 inventory. In the 1920s, John D. Rockefeller purchased the tapestries and then donated them in the 1930s to the MET. In the June 1935 issue of the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs , H.C. Marillier tells readers of Rockafeller’s generous donation, declaring: “They are without any doubt the most important set of tapestries in America.”

Nearly 100 years later, the tapestries still hang in the MET Cloisters , the MET’s medieval museum. Let’s dive into the narrative and symbolism of all seven tapestries, which are listed in the order they are displayed at the Cloisters, though even the chronology of them is not certain.


Detail from The Unicorn Defends Itself (1495-1505), a large tapestry in the main gallery.

Who says unicorns aren’t real? Mr. Rockefeller’s tapestry unicorns have been the celebrity draw for the last 75 years uptown at The Cloisters, and are the cavorting centerpieces of the show, Search for the Unicorn. But it took some brave curators to finally display all the unicorn-themed stuff in the Met’s collection and truly reveal the place this beloved icon has held in science, medicine, and art for the last 2,000 years.

The small micro-show in the Romanesque gallery just inside the entrance presents ivory coffers, playing cards, etchings, a carved-bone parade saddle, and coats of arms featuring unicorns in all manner of activity.

But the surprises are loans from NYPL and the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda showing the unicorn’s inclusion in scientific texts, which attest to sightings and miracle cures from the impressive cloven-hoofed trotter.

Pome’s 1694 identification of species in General History of Drugs. Courtesy: US National Library of Medicine, Bethesda.

Conrad Gesner’s Histories of the Animals (1551), the most popular natural history book during the Renaissance, included the unicorn among its 1,200 woodcut images of the world’s quadrupeds. Gesner, who also published images of fossils for the first time here, was a stickler for documentation, and asserts that unicorns had been seen in Mecca by a reliable source. He wrote several pages about how to discern real from fake unicorn horns and told how it should be used to purify water, counteract poisons, and treat epilepsy.

General History of Drugs, which achieved global circulation after it was published in 1694, was written by Pierre Pome, the pharmacist to Louis XIV known for his expertise in medicines and treatments from exotic cultures. Pome gave unicorns their own chapter and described five species living in the Arabian desert and in proximity to the Red Sea. In Chapter 33, he correctly proclaimed “unicorn horn” to be narwhal tusk.

Narwahl tooth (a.k.a. unicorn horn). Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The narwhal’s gracefully shaped, unicorn-looking incisor tooth is given a place in the show, too. One from a private collector is in the Romanesque gallery alongside one of the tapestries, The Unicorn in Captivity (the one in the fenced-in pasture) the second stands behind glass opposite the rest of the tapestries in their usual gallery.

Fancied by rich and powerful in years gone by, Charlemagne, Suleyman the Magnificent, Charles VI of France, and Lorenzo de Medici all owned this Arctic collectible.

We couldn’t take photos inside the show, but don’t worry. The Met’s done a fantastic job documenting everything online, so take time to peruse all the items in the show. Then click on our Flickr site to see the famous Unicorn gallery and glimpse the Cloisters on a perfect summer day.

Do you have 13 minutes? If so, you’ll enjoy the hilarious introduction to the show by curator Barbara Drake Boehm and her speculation on why it took the Cloisters 75 years to mount a show on unicorns. The natural history of unicorns starts around 3:40, and she’ll take you through all the key library materials. Watch to the end to find out where the unicorn was last sighted in the 21 st century. It wasn’t Toys ‘R’ Us.


Мы не просто торговая площадка для необычных вещей, мы сообщество людей, которые заботятся о малом бизнесе, людях и нашей планете.

Мы не просто торговая площадка для необычных вещей, мы сообщество людей, которые заботятся о малом бизнесе, людях и нашей планете.

Этот гобелен wallhanging называется Единорог защищает себя. Знаменитая серия из семи гобеленов под названием Охота на единорога, или Единорог гобелены, были весьма вероятно, сплетены в Брюсселе между 1495 и 1505 годах. На гобеленах видно, как группа дворян и охотников в погоне за единорогом. Гобелены имеют богатый цветочный фон, так что типичный для "millefleurs" стиль гобелены. Оригинальные гобелены в настоящее время в Cloisters в Нью-йорке.

- Размеры гобелена: 70 "х 90"
- Качество : жаккард, сплетенный в России
- Полностью выровненный и законченный с рукавом стержня
- Хлопок и полиэстер смеси.

Этот великолепный гобелен стены висит сделает ваш дом более уникальным. Отличный подарок, который подходит для любого дизайна интерьера. Отличное дополнение к любой коллекции гобеленов.

Бесплатная стандартная доставка по всему миру включена. Ускоренная доставка доступна по запросу.


Watch the video: HOW TO DRAW A CUTE UNICORN (August 2022).