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The Unicorn is Attacked (from the Unicorn Tapestries)

Date:
1495–1505
Culture:
South Netherlandish
Medium:
Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts
Dimensions:
Overall: 145 x 168in. (368.3 x 426.7cm)
Classification:
Textiles-Tapestries
Credit Line:
Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937
Accession Number:
37.80.3
  • Description

    According to tradition, the unicorn cannot be disturbed while performing a magical act. The attack by the hunters thus presumably begins soon after the action depicted in The Unicorn Is Found, and the scene is one filled with chaos and commotion. The ferocity of the battle is conveyed by the converging lances aimed at the animal, the sounding of the hunting horns, and the menacing hounds. Already wounded on his back, the unicorn leaps across a stream in a desperate attempt to escape his encircling enemies.

    The use of hounds to scout, chase, and eventually attack the quarry was typical practice in medieval stag hunts, and the palatial buildings in the background might be a further allusion to the hunt as a royal or aristocratic pastime. Unlike The Hunters Enter the Woods and The Unicorn in Captivity, this and the other hangings are set in realistic landscapes that enhance the drama of the hunt.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: (center and each corner): AE
    (on two of dogs collars at left): AE
    (center top): FR

  • 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 Aimery de La Rochefoucauld , château de Verteuil, Charente (until 1923) ; Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. (in 1923 through Edouard Larcade–until 1937)

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
467639

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