Unicorn Tapestries

The Cloisters museum started the preparation of the room where the Unicorn Tapestries would be displayed in 1998 (Preston).The Unicorn Tapestries are currently permanently exhibited at the New York’s The Cloisters (Margaret 2). Just as the unicorn, the tapestries can be considered the world’s marvels. This is because there is no other artwork where the magical creature is presented in the astonishing detail with a good command of symbolic intention and pictorial verisimilitude (Margaret 2).

The Unicorn Tapestries stand out among the most beautiful tapestries in human history. Furthermore, they are considered to be among the greatest works of art (Preston). This essay focuses on the various symbolic intentions of the Unicorn Tapestries and the secular and religious depictions in the piece of work. The essay tries to investigate the reasons why it is considered a marvel of the world and stands out as one of the greatest piece of art.

The Gothic tapestries that are seven in number portray what is commonly referred to as The Hunt of the Unicorn (Margaret 2). The tapestries’ dimensions are twelve feet tall and fourteen feet wide with the exception of one tapestry which is fragmented. The tapestries were woven using wool and silk threads that were dyed. Some of the tapestries are wrapped in silver or gilded. They are believed to have been woven in Liège or Brussels as a present in honouring someone or a present in a wedding. The tapestries have “A” and “E” monograms, the meaning of which is not known. During the Middle Ages, the unicorn symbolized many things such as Christianity, wisdom, immorality, lovers and marriage (Preston).

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The Unicorn Tapestries have depictions of noblemen who are richly dressed in company of hunters and hounds, pursuing a unicorn in a landscape that is forested. The hunters finally find the unicorn and kill it, bringing it back to the castle. The last tapestry, referred to as The Unicorn in Captivity depicts the unicorn covered in blood but still alive. It is chained to a tree with a circular fence in field with flowers (Preston). According to Margaret (6), the depictions of The Unicorn Tapestries can be considered to be dual in nature i.e. secular and religious, especially during the Middle Ages.

It has aspects of matrimonial fidelity, love and the desire to have progeny which is a depiction of marriage. The Unicorn also represents Christ while the various compositions depict Incarnation, Passions and Resurrection. Angel Gabriel who is the Annunciation Angel is among the hunters in the art. The unicorn is also depicted as losing his fierceness in Virgin Mary’s lap (Margaret 6). In addition, a thorny crown is also encircling his neck and horn when he is killed (Preston). Furthermore, the unicorn also resurrects and is chained to a pomegranate tree. This depicts the image of Christ who rose from the dead (Margaret 6).