Among The Lilies » Unicorn in Captivity: Lilium candidum

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Unicorn in Captivity: Lilium candidum

The Unicorn in Captivity, 1495–1505
South Netherlandish
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)
See the Collection Database to learn more about this work of art.

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.

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