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The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn (from the Unicorn Tapestries)

Date:
1495–1505
Culture:
South Netherlandish
Medium:
Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts
Dimensions:
Overall: 78 x 25 1/2 in. (198.1 x 64.8 cm)
Classification:
Textiles-Tapestries
Credit Line:
Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1938
Accession Number:
38.51.2
  • Description

    In these two fragments of a single tapestry, the unicorn appears to have been tamed. He seems so docile, in fact, that he is oblivious to the dog licking the wound on his back and stares loving at the maiden who must have subdued him. Most of her figure is missing, the result of damage incurred after the tapestries were looted in 1793. The remaining traces include the maiden's right arm, clothed in red velvet and visible between the beard and throat of the unicorn, and her fingers, seen gently caressing the bottom of the animal's mane. She sits in an enclosed garden (hortus conclusus), often a metaphor for the purity of a maiden. The more complete female figure may be signaling to the hunter outside the garden, who in turn sounds the horn to summon the others.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: (at right edge): [beginning of letter A]
    (on dog's collar): IHS

  • Provenance

    Comtes de La Rochefoucauld , France ; François VI de La Rochefoucauld , Paris (in 1680) ; François VIII de La Rochefoucauld , château de Verteuil, Charente (in 1728) ; Château de Verteuil (said to have been looted in 1793) ; Comtes de La Rochefoucauld , château de Verteuil, Charente (in 1856) ; comte Gabriel de La Rochefoucauld , France (until 1938) ; Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. (in 1923)

  • See also
    What
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    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
467654

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