The Unicorn Tapestries

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In the Middle Ages the unicorn was thought of as being a strong and fierce animal associated with chastity and virginity. It was during this time that unicorns began appearing in artwork and tapestries. The Unicorn Tapestries have been one of the most popular tapestry wall hangings since the medieval era.

The Unicorn Tapestries is a set of seven tapestries dated c. 1495-1505 from Brussels. They each hang at 12'1" x 8'3." They are Franco-Flemish work and are commonly referred to as The Hunt of the Unicorn. The Unicorn Tapestries are located at The Cloisters in Northern Manhattan. The seven tapestries in the series are The Start of the Hunt, The Unicorn is Found, The Unicorn Leaps out of the Stream, The Unicorn at Bay, The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn, The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle, and The Unicorn in Captivity. The tapestries serve as illustrations of the story of the main figure, the Unicorn. The tapestries were first discovered among the possessions of Francois VI de La Rochefoucauld's possessions after his death in 1680. They had later been seized by mobs during the French Revolution and were mistreated. At one point, the tapestries had even been used to cover vegetables in a barn. This resulted in damage such as the loss of several feet of the fabric. The tapestry which receive the most damage was the fifth tapestry in the set, The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn, which remains only as two fragments of the original tapestry. The tapestries have been restored, with missing pieces re-woven and replaced by pieces from other tapestries.

The Unicorn Tapestries sometimes appear to be paintings when they are seen from a distance and even when they are seen in photographs. They are known for their charm, richness of...

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...ory and interpretation that the unicorn represents Christ comes into play. The unicorn's resurrection can be compared to the resurrection of Jesus Christ into a heavenly garden.

Another interpretation of the tapestries as a wedding gift can view the story as the unicorn being a lover who endures various hardships to win his lady's love; he had to suffer to win her heart. In the last tapestry the unicorn is now wearing the "chain of love" around his neck and surrounded by a fence, perhaps to show he is now tamed and domesticated by his lady's affection.

The juice of the pomegranates above falling onto the unicorns white coat also has different meaning. The seeds of the fruit represent the unity of the Church and hope for the Resurrection. It also is used to represent royalty and the many seeds represent fertility and the children to be produced by marriage.

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