As one of the most beautiful and expensive tapestries in existence, The Unicorn is Found, is part of a seven piece set of tapestries called The Hunt of the Unicorn. Woven from wool, silk, silver, and gold, it was believed to be created between the years 1495 and 1500 and has had many homes over the years. The most recent home is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (“Unicorn”). Not only has this tapestry had many homes over the years, but it has been studied by many. Those who have studied it believe that it was either an allegory about Christ’s life, a picture of romantic love and it was created to be a wedding gift, or a mixture of the two.
There are many aspects of this tapestry that lead studiers to believe that it is an allegory of the life of Christ. First of all, in Renaissance folklore, a unicorn represents Christ. Second, many of the animals in the tapestry have some relation to Christ or holiness. One of which is the goldfinch. In the Middle Ages, goldfinches were thought to eat thorns and thistles, which are reminiscent of Christ’s crown, and thus were considered holy (“Unicorn”). Another animal that was considered holy was the stag. It was a common belief in the Middle Ages that stags were serpent eaters (Stockstad 594). Since Satan is represented as a snake in the Bible, many revere the stag as holy. Lastly, there are ropes shaped into crosses on the four corners of the tapestry.
There are also many aspects of this tapestry that lead studiers to believe that it is simply a picture of romantic love and was meant to be given as a wedding gift. First of all, there are the letters A and E in several places on the tapestry. Many studiers believe that these are the first letters of the recipients of the tapestry, possible a newlywed couple. Secondly, it was commonly believed in the Middle Ages that a unicorn represented lovers or marriage (“Capturing”). Also, there are many animals and scenery that represent love or marriage. Rabbits are seen frolicking in this tapestry. As was believed and is still believed today, rabbits are a sign of fertility. Dogs are also seen in several parts of this tapestry. Dogs are commonly seen as loyal, which is a very valuable aspect of a romantic relationship. In addition, the pheasants are seen as a sign of love and marriage and the goldfinches symbolize fertility. Finally, many of the plants are seen as symbols of love and marriage. One of these is the strawberry, a representation of sexual love (Stockstad 595).
Regardless of the original meaning of this tapestry, The Unicorn is Found, remains a beautiful part of 15th century artwork. It was beautifully created from the finest silks, wool, and even precious metals. It is part of a story that represents something wonderful – whether it is Christ’s life or a picture of romantic love.
“Capturing the Unicorn.” The New Yorker. 25 Jan. 2009 .
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2008.
“The Unicorn Tapestries.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 25 Jan. 2009 .