The Unicorn Rests in a Garden


Hillary Smith
by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
published on 21 October 2020
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"The Unicorn Rests in a Garden" is one of seven tapestries in the "Unicorn Tapestries" group. These allegorical tapestries depict the hunting of a unicorn, a mythological animal common to European folklore. "The Unicorn Rests in a Garden" is commonly referred to as “The Unicorn in Captivity,” and is perhaps the most famous of the tapestries, though there is some debate about whether or not it was originally part of this series. Here, we see the unicorn in a small enclosure from which he could easily escape, tethered with a loose chain to a pomegranate tree and circled by a short fence. The unicorn is surrounded by symbols that a medieval audience would have recognized as indicators of fertility and marriage, including pomegranates, wild orchids, and thistles. While at first glance the unicorn may appear to be injured, the “blood” is more likely pomegranate juice from the fruit overhead.

The tapestries originally belonged the Le Rochefoucald family of France, and the earliest record of them confirms that they were hanging in the Paris home of François VI de La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680 CE) by 1680 CE. The tapestries are thought to have been woven in Brussels between 1495 – 1505 CE, although they were designed in Paris, France.

The Unicorn Tapestries are now held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and are housed in the Met Cloisters.

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Cite This Work

APA Style

Art, T. M. M. O. (2020, October 21). The Unicorn Rests in a Garden. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Art, The M. M. O. "The Unicorn Rests in a Garden." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified October 21, 2020.

MLA Style

Art, The M. M. O. "The Unicorn Rests in a Garden." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 21 Oct 2020. Web. 24 Jan 2021.

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