Adam and Eve and Arum » Detail from The Unicorn in Captivity

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Detail from The Unicorn in Captivity

Detail from The Unicorn in Captivity, 1495–1505. South Netherlandish. Wool warp, wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts; Overall: 12 ft. 7/8 in. x 8 ft. 3 in. (368 x 251.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937 (37.80.6). See the Collection Database to learn more about this work of art.

The greenish, hooded flower of the cuckoo-pint peeps out between the rails of the enclosure on the right side of the tapestry.

A number of May-blooming plants associated with sexuality and fertility appear in close conjunction to the unicorn’s body in this tapestry. Above and to the left of the arum, the early purple orchid (Orchis mascula), whose leaves are spotted like those of the cuckoo-pint, and which was also used as an aphrodisiac, is prominently placed against the animal’s forequarter. See the comment thread from our first post (”Welcome to the Medieval Garden Enclosed,” July 1, 2008) for a discussion of this species.

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