The Unicorn Tapestries. 1495-1505, South Netherlands (approx). The seven individual hangings known as “The Unicorn Tapestries,” are among the most beautiful and complex works of art from the late Middle Ages that survive. Luxuriously woven in fine wool and silk with silver and gilded threads, the tapestries vividly depict scenes associated with a hunt for the elusive, magical unicorn. The tapestries are arguably the greatest example of Flemish/Mid-European renaissance needlework.
Historians can’t quite agree on whether the unicorn tapestries were meant to be part of a larger whole tapestry, or created as separate pieces.
Through history, unicorns have symbolised purity, only able to be lured in by virgins. Sailors often brought back the horns of male narwhals, claiming them to be the horns of slain unicorns, which were said to possess purifying powers. Sometimes, these ‘unicorn horns’ were used domestically to test for poison in food. No doubt, they probably weren’t very effective.
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art