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.
#65. The Unicorn Is Attacked (from the Unicorn Tapestries)
Medium:Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts
Dimensions:Overall: 145 x 168in. (368.3 x 426.7cm)
Credit Line:Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937
Inscription: (top center): F [image of a knot] R (too fragmentary for interpretation, most likely added later as a reference to Francius de La Rochedfoucauld)
(in each corner): : A [image of a knot] E [reversed] (unidentified)
(on two dog collars): A [image of a knot] E [reversed] (unidentified)
Comtes de La Rochefoucauld, France ; François VI de La Rochefoucauld French, 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. American (in 1923 through Edouard Larcade–until 1937)
Anderson Galleries. "Exhibited by Edouard Larcade," 1922.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Gothic Tapestries," May 25–September 16, 1928.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971.
Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. "Masterpieces of Tapestry from the 14th to the 16th century," October 27, 1973–January 7, 1974.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Tapestry from the 14th to the 16th century," February 8–April 21, 1974.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Unicorn Tapestries," July 1–September 6, 1998.
New York. The Cloisters Museum & Gardens. "Search for the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of The Cloisters' 75th Anniversary," May-14-Aug-18-2013.
Breck, Joseph. "The Tapestry Exhibition: Part I." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, o.s., 23, no. 6 (June 1928). pp. 147–50, fig. 4.
Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of French Gothic Tapestries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1928. no. 4–9, pp. 18–21.
Migeon, Gaston. Les Arts du Tissu. Manuels d'histoire de l'art. Revised ed. Paris: Henri Laurens, 1929. p. 326.
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. 13.
Lief, Zola. "The Cloisters." The Compleat Collector 3, no. 7 (May 1943). pp. 3, 4, ill.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1952. no. 56, pp. 49, 63, 222.
Rorimer, James J., and William Holmes Forsyth. "The Medieval Galleries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 12, no. 6 (February 1954). p. 121.
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.
Deuchler, Florens. "The Cloisters: A New Center for Mediaeval Studies." The Connoisseur 172 (November 1969). p. 145, fig. 11.
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. 147.
Freeman, Margaret B. "The Unicorn Tapestries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 32, no. 1 (1973-1974). pp. 190–195.
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. 3, discussed and ill. thoughout.
Young, Bonnie. A Walk Through The Cloisters. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. pp. 65–75.
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. 3, 11.
Schrader, J. L. "A Medieval Bestiary." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 44, no. 1 (Summer 1986). p. 40.
Cavallo, Adolfo S. Medieval Tapestries in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 20c, pp. 14, 51, 297–327.
Boehm, Barbara Drake. "Textiles in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 53, no. 3 (Winter 1995-1996).
Cavallo, Adolph S. The Unicorn Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. no. 3.
Franke, Birgit. Assuerus und Esther am Burgunderhof: Zur Rezeption des Buches Esther in den Niederlanden (1450 bis 1530). Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1998. p. 119.
Campbell, Thomas P., ed. Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. pp. 70–79.
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 119, pp. 163, 199.
Piccat, Marco. "Le lettere nascoste: Caterina d’Aragona e le tappezzerie del liocorno. Musée de Cluny (Parigi)." Locus Amœnus 10 (2009–2010). p. 18.
Colburn, Kathrin. "Three Fragments of the Mystic Capture of the Unicorn Tapestry." Metropolitan Museum Journal 45 (2010). pp. 97–106, fig. 2.
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. 171.
Husband, Timothy B. "Creating the Cloisters." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 70, no. 4 (Spring 2013). pp. 15–17, 43–45, fig. 29, 30.
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. 5.
Boehm, Barbara Drake. "A Blessing of Unicorns: The Paris and Cloisters Tapestries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 78, no. 1 (Summer 2020). pp. 39, 41, 43, 45, fig. 6.
Philippe de Montebello, former Director of The Met, guides viewers through The Cloisters, pointing out Romanesque and Gothic architecture and artwork, beautiful tapestries, and the diverse species in the gardens. He outlines the history of the building and its many influences and highlights significant works of art in the collection.
Produced for the 1974 exhibition Masterpieces of Tapestry, this short form recounts the tale depicted in “The Unicorn Tapestries” and explains the symbolic meaning of these mythic creatures, including their purifying and restorative powers.
Eighty-five years ago today, on June 12, 1925, The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased a collection of medieval sculpture and architectural fragments from George Grey Barnard (1863–1938), a prominent American sculptor and collector. This acquisition formed the nucleus of what would become The Cloisters, the branch of the Museum located in Northern Manhattan and devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.
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