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ABOUT THE ARTWORK
Title: The Unicorn in Captivity (from the Unicorn Tapestries)
Culture: France, South Netherlands
Medium: Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts
The Unicorn in Captivity tapestry is among the most beautiful and complex works of art from the late Middle Ages that survives to this day. While the exact place of origin is unknown, most art historians agree these were probably designed in France and woven in Southern Netherlands or Brussels.
The symbolism of the unicorn in the Middle Ages was both secular and religious. The unicorn could be understood as a Christ-figure, sitting in a garden that resembles depictions of paradise. In a more secular interpretation, the unicorn in captivity represents matrimony and true love, with the pomegranate tree above a symbol of fertility.
Gardens were also a source of the dyes commonly used in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages. All of the colors in the tapestry were made from a combination of three base pigments derived from plants to create its vibrant thread colors: madder (red), woad (blue), and weld (yellow).