Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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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: 66 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (168.9 x 64.8 cm)
Classification:
Textiles-Tapestries
Credit Line:
Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1938
Accession Number:
38.51.1
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 17
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.
Inscription: (on upper tree branch): 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 (1856) ; comte Gabriel de La Rochefoucauld, France (until 1938) ; Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr.(in 1923)
Rorimer, James J. "New Acquisitions for the Cloisters." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 33, no.5, Part 2 (May 1938). p. 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.

Freeman, Margaret B. "The Unicorn Tapestries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 32, no. 1 (1973-1974). pp. 202-205.

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. 5, discussed and ill. thoughout.

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. 5, 10.

Cavallo, Adolfo S. Medieval Tapestries in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 20, pp. 297-327.

Cavallo, Adolph S. The Unicorn Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. no. 5.

Campbell, Thomas P., ed. Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. pp. 70–79, fig. 41.

Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 121, pp. 166, 199.

Colburn, Kathrin. "Three Fragments of the Mystic Capture of the Unicorn Tapestry." Metropolitan Museum Journal 45 (2010). pp. 97-106, fig. 1-6, 8-11.

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. 173.

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. 68, fig. 3-1.



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