The Unicorn Defends Itself (from the Unicorn Tapestries)

Date: 1495–1505

Culture: South Netherlandish

Medium: Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts

Dimensions: Overall: 145 x 158 in. (368.3 x 401.3cm)

Classification: Textiles-Tapestries

Credit Line: Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937

Accession Number: 37.80.4


With the help of their dogs, the hunters have surrounded the unicorn. As the men prepare to spear him, and dogs bite at his haunch, the unicorn kicks out in anger, at the same time stabbing a dog with his horn. The hunting dogs are portrayed with remarkable precision, as are the waterfowl in the foreground.

This tapestry is one of seven at The Cloisters devoted to the legendary Unicorn (acc. nos. 37.80.1–.6 and 38.51.1, .2).