The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle (from the Unicorn Tapestries)
Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts
Overall: 145 x 153in. (368.3 x 388.6cm)
Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 17
Two episodes of the hunt narrative are brought together in this hanging. At left, two hunters drive their lances into the neck and chest of the unicorn, as a third delivers the coup de grâce from the back. It has been suggested that the doomed unicorn is an allegory for Christ dying on the Cross; the large holly tree (often a symbol of the Passion) rising from behind his head seems to reinforce this association. In the other episode, at right, a lord and a lady receive the body of the unicorn in front of their castle. They are surrounded by their attendants, with more curious onlookers peering through windows of the turret behind them. The dead animal is slung on the back of a horse, his horn already cut off but still entangled in thorny oak branches—probably symbolizing the Crown of Thorns. The rosary in the hand of the lady and the three other women standing behind the lord encourage a deeper reading of the scene, perhaps as a symbolic Deposition by the grieving Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and the Holy Women.
Inscription: (center and three corners): AE
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 Aimery de La Rochefoucauld, château de Verteuil, Charente (until 1923) ; Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr.(in 1923 through Edouard Larcade–until 1937)
Breck, Joseph. "The Tapestry Exhibition: Part I." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, o.s., 23, no. 6 (June 1928). pp. 147–50, fig. 5.
Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of French Gothic Tapestries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1928. no. 4–9, pp. 18–21.
Rorimer, James J. "New Acquisitions for the Cloisters." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 33, no.5, Part 2 (May 1938). pp. 14-17, fig. 14.
Stoddard, Whitney S. Monastery and Cathedral in France: Medieval Architecture, Sculpture, Stained Glass, Manuscripts, the Art of the Church Treasuries. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1966. pp. 357–59, fig. 410.
Coffinet, Julien. Arachné ou L'art de la tapisserie. Paris: Bibliothèque des arts, 1971. pp. 201–203, 205.
Deuchler, Florens. "The Cloisters: ein Museum für mittelalterliche Kunst in New York." Du 32, no. 2 (1972). p. 146.
Freeman, Margaret B. "The Unicorn Tapestries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 32, no. 1 (1973-1974). pp. 206-211.
Souchal, Geneviève, ed. Chefs-d'œuvre de la tapisserie du XIVe au XVIe siècle. Paris: Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 1973. no. 18–24, pp. 76–86.
Souchal, Geneviève, ed. Masterpieces of Tapestry from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1974. no. 18–24, pp. 69–79.
Freeman, Margaret. The Unicorn Tapestries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976. no. 6, discussed and ill. thoughout.
Young, Bonnie. A Walk Through The Cloisters. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. pp. 65-75.
Crockett, Lawrence J. "The Identification of a Plant in the Unicorn Tapestries." Metropolitan Museum Journal 17 (1982). p. 22, fig. 14.
Nickel, Helmut. "About the Sequence of the Tapestries in The Hunt of the Unicorn and The Lady with the Unicorn." Metropolitan Museum Journal 17 (1982). pp. 9-14, fig. 6, 12.
Nickel, Helmut. "Presents to Princes: A Bestiary of Strange and Wondrous Beasts, Once Known, for a Time Forgotten, and Rediscovered." Metropolitan Museum Journal 26 (1991). pp. 129-130, fig. 1.
Cavallo, Adolfo S. Medieval Tapestries in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 20, pp. 297-327.
Boldrick, Stacy L. "Tapestry." In Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, edited by William W. Kibler, and Grover A. Zinn. Garland Encyclopedias of the Middle Ages, Vol. 2. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995. p. 901 .
Cavallo, Adolph S. The Unicorn Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. no. 6.
Campbell, Thomas P., ed. Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. pp. 70–79, fig. 42.
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 122, pp. 167, 199.
Colburn, Kathrin. "Three Fragments of the Mystic Capture of the Unicorn Tapestry." Metropolitan Museum Journal 45 (2010). pp. 97-106, fig. 2.
Nelson, Ernest Charles. " 'The great Dragon rifeth vp with a straight ftalke': A Possible Model for the Unicorn’s Tree." Metropolitan Museum Journal 45 (2010). pp. 91-95, fig. 1, 5.
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. 75th Anniversary ed. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. p. 174.
Taburet-Delahaye, Elisabeth, ed. La Dame à la licorne et l'art européen autour de 1500 dans les collections du musée de Cluny, Paris. Paris (?): Musée National du Moyen Âge - Thermes et Hôtel de Cluny, 2013. p. 69, fig. 7.