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. In some contexts, the unicorn is an allegory for Christ; the large holly tree (often a symbol of Christ's Passion) rising from behind his head may conceivably be linked to 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—perhaps an allusion to the Crown of Thorns.
#68. The Unicorn Is Killed and Brought to the Castle (from the Unicorn Tapestries)
Medium:Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts
Dimensions:Overall: 145 x 153in. (368.3 x 388.6cm)
Credit Line:Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937
Inscription: (center and three corners): 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. 5.
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. 14.
Lief, Zola. "The Cloisters." The Compleat Collector 3, no. 7 (May 1943). p. 4.
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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.
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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 .
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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, fig. 42.
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Piccat, Marco. "Le lettere nascoste: Caterina d’Aragona e le tappezzerie del liocorno. Musée de Cluny (Parigi)." Locus Amœnus 10 (2009–2010). p. 18.
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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.
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Boehm, Barbara Drake. "A Blessing of Unicorns: The Paris and Cloisters Tapestries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 78, no. 1 (Summer 2020). pp. 39–40, fig. 14.
Krohn, Deborah L. Staging the Table in Europe 1500–1800. New York: Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, 2023. p. 17, fig. I.7.
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.
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