Medieval Lore: The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries

The Lady and the Unicorn: Sight – Source

This article was first published 28th May, 2020 on titled, Unicorn Lore: Interpreting the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries, by zteve t evans

The Mythical, Magical Unicorn

The rare and elusive, mythical, magical unicorn has been part of folklore and legend for centuries, evolving spectacularly into the modern age.  Despite its reputed elusiveness and rarity you do not need to go far to find one these days.  Unicorns appear in a range of products such as toys or works of art sold in high streets and feature in literature, films, television and much more.  In the distant past it was a very different creature but it has grown into the very embodiment of purity, elegance, innocence and beauty that we are familiar with today.

Many of today’s perceptions of the unicorn evolved from the medieval and Renaissance eras where they appeared in works of art, tapestries, and coats-of-arms of the rich and powerful. Presented here is a brief look at a set of six late medieval tapestries known as La Dame à la licorne, or The Lady and the Unicorn.  Today reproductions of these designs appear in various places but notably adorning the walls of the Gryffindor Common Room in the Harry Potter films.

Interpreting the Lady and the Unicorn

The tapestries are believed to have an original meaning and purpose that has been lost over time and their interpretation is uncertain today. Medieval people would have understood what each of the figures, motifs and symbols in each scene meant and how they were all part of an extended allegory that came together to create an overall meaning or message …

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14 thoughts on “Medieval Lore: The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries

  1. Saw the tapestries at the Cluny, as well. Shortly after they had been restored. Magnificent. And, as you say, not much information available about the symbolism of the different figures I; the tapestries. You have done a wonderful job of putting the tale together.

  2. I’ve seen replications of these tapestries, particularly “sight,” so many times that I almost stopped thinking about them. Thanks for the deep dive into their current interpretation!

    I’d never even noticed the monkey. When I started looking for it in all the tapestries, I realized I couldn’t find it in “sight” or “hearing.” Given these are the dominant senses of humans, I wonder if they were being represented as the most pure or free of lower urges. But then I’m not sure why the monkey is also present in the sixth tapestry. So many mysteries!

  3. Pingback: Medieval Lore: The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries — Under the influence! (Reblog) – The Midlode Mercury

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