Recently I was able to visit the Cloisters, a division of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Cloisters is located in a beautiful castle-like structure that was built by a sculptor and student of Rodin, George Barnard. George wanted to show off his collection of beautiful Medieval art by creating a poetic interpretation of the middle ages. The Cloisters are a gorgeous tribute to his inspiration.
Within the Cloisters are a famous group of tapestries: The Hunt of the Unicorn. They were much larger than I had anticipated, having seen the reproductions in various places. It was even more beautiful in person. The collection consists of seven tapestries, created around 1500, most liked in Brussels and commissioned by Anne of Brittany to commemorate her marriage to King Louis XII of France. The tapestries are woven with a mixture of silk, metallic thread, and wool, which gives them a rich, vibrant appearance. The subject of the unicorn was heavy with symbolism in the Medieval world. People actually believed that the unicorn was a real animal, and were portrayed not in a silly way, but with great reverence. They were symbols of purity, fidelity, and rare beauty, and their horns were thought to posses healing, purifying powers. Narwhal horns were sold to unsuspecting medieval people for huge prices under the guise that they were unicorn horns, and kings would often drink out of them as goblets so as to minimize the effects of poison. Today, they are a beautiful idea, a symbol of a time long past, that still holds enchantment.
I came home inspired to perhaps work some unicorns into my own artwork. To incorporate unicorns into your own world, I found an adorable necklace and art print–just click them to see the details! What do you think of the symbolism of the unicorn? Does it change the way though think about the legends from the Medieval times? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Stay inspired, until next time,
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