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A visit to the Cloisters, NYC

 

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Sam and I next to the The Unicorn in Captivity tapestry

I recently made my first trip to the Cloisters branch of the MET to see the famous unicorn tapestries, a series of seven tapestries depicting the hunt and capture of a unicorn.  They did not disappoint.  I was especially enamored by the way light and shadow are so magnificently achieved by the use of hatching in everything from the flora to the textiles that the humans wore.  My favorite aspect though, and I have to admit I was obsessing over this detail, was that same technique used on the tights of the hunters. Something about the graphic high contrast of beige and red, and the oval knee caps really appeals to me.  I tried to take good photos but the lighting in there is not great for no-flash photography (obviously for good reason).

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According to Adolfo Salvadore Cavallo, author of The Unicorn Tapestries (1998), it’s this depiction of light and shadow that sets this series of tapestries apart from others from the late 15th – early 16th century.  Apparently, the way that light appears to reflect off the edges of the velvet coats of the hunters is especially intriguing since it achieves a kind of “magic realism” usually only seen in paintings (Cavallo, 89).

The Hunt of the Unicorn.  Click the image to go to its source.

The Hunt of the Unicorn. Click the image to go to its source.

Janna and Sam at the Cloisters gardens

Sam and I at the Cloisters’ gardens.

I also learned that the unicorn tapestries contain silver thread, how extravagant!  So, last week when I received this gold thread in the mail from Mirrix I had to include it my current tapestry.  Did you know that ancient tapestries were destroyed (burned) in order to retrieve the gold and silver within them? (source)

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