The Unicorn in Captivity, 1495–1505
Wool warp with wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts; Overall: 12 ft. 7/8 in. x 99 in. (368 x 251.5 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937 (37.80.6)
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Lilium candidum, literally “the shining white lily,” was one of the two most important garden flowers of the Middle Ages, the other being the rose. The bulb had a number of medicinal uses and was an antidote against the bite of serpents and other venomous creatures. The lily was also a ubiquitous symbol in medieval art, especially associated with the Virgin, with Paradise, and with a number of saints. In her book The Unicorn Tapestries, published in 1976, Freeman devoted one and a half pages to the use and significance of the lily. The scanned images of her notes and transcriptions in the body of this post were the basis for her explication.