Unicorn



There's so much to be discovered, you can probably spend a lifetime researching the mythical creature from European folklore called the unicorn. In short; it's origin can be traced back as far as the ancient Greeks, where a one-horned horse was described in On the Nature of Animals, originating from India. It get's mentioned in early copies of the bible. It's said to be a fierce and powerful creature, un-tamable. Various East Asian cultures treasure mythical creatures, amongst is the Qilin, but it's characteristics indicate unintended conflation. Going fast forward a dozen of Centuries we enter
into Medieval and Renaissance Europe...  

The Hunt Of The Unicorn 
Southern Netherlands (1495 - 1505)


By that time the myth of the Unicorn was embraced by many. Various religious and cultural movements took it on board and interpreted it to their likings. It's death could stand for The Passion of Christ, or it's surrender to the maid as a metaphor for beguiled lovers. 

"Hunters can catch the unicorn only by placing a young virgin in his haunts. No sooner does he see the damsel than he runs towards her, and lies down at her feet, and so suffer himself to be captured by the hunters."
Clerc de Normandie, Le Bestiaire Divin de Guillame (13th Century)



Unicorn horns were often found in cabinets of curiosities. It made for great conversations, like so many of the rare objects collected.  

"Now I will believe that there are unicorns..."
William Shakespeare, The tempest (1612)


But what actually was on display was the tusk of a Narwhal , a white whale related to the Beluga. It's habitat is a small band in the northern regions of the globe,  close to the North Pole. Traded down (into Europe) by locals, including Vikings the tusk were sold to be unicorn horns. 



Whatever it's meaning has been through the ages, it's existence wasn't doubted till the start of the great explorations at the beginning of the 17th Century, and modern day said otherwise. Although consensus is now they are non-existing, unicorns still appeal. They are synonymous for a lot of things, the biggest probably being strength, innocence and a mysterious world gone-by...


Maybe this poem represents that;

His horn is free,
Rising above chain, fence and tree.
Free hymn of love; His horn
Bursts from his tranquil brow
Like a comet born;
Cleaves like a galley's prow
Into seas untorn;
Springs like a lilly, white
From the earth below;
Spirals, a bird in flight
To a longed-for height;
Or a fountain bright,
Spurting to light
Of early morn...
O luminous horn!

Anne Morrow Lindberg


enjoy the weekend,


11 comments:

  1. I have always loved the Unicorn tapestries. Both those in the Cloisters in NY and the Cluny ones in France.

    I love your mounted miniature horn.

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  2. Oh, Wonderful! I am a Unicorn Devotee! Is that shell a real mini Narwhal tusk???? Your setting is SO perfect! I really admire your careful attention to detail and the precision of your work! It is so beautiful!

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  4. We share a similar interest in unicorns! I've always loved them - since I was a child. I wrote a post about unicorns and 'The Hunt of the Unicorn' tapestries too. :) Caroline x
    http://pixiedustminiatures.blogspot.com/2011/02/pinch-more-magic-unicorn-horns.html

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  5. Such a wonderful little treat for your readers Deb :0) As most people I´m facinated by the myths and fairytales, but even more I´m facinated by oddeties, and the tiny skull on the table caught my eye at first. I love it" is it a real mouse skull or and polymer replica thing?

    As Caroline comments, your attention to details and precision is breathtaking...

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  6. Very interesting and beautiful! Love how you have it displayed

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  7. Glad you like it :) It was fun to set up. The skull -indeed- is a real one; I picked it out from a owls pellet a few years ago. And the little shells came from the beach nearby. They are still doubled up and closed! I don't know if even the best poly-clay artist could make them so perfectly as Nature has done.

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  8. Just like Catherine, I have always loved the Unicorn tapestries. I remember the first time I saw them, I must have spent an hour in that room.
    Unicorn horn or Narwhal tusk, they are beautiful objects, something I would love to have on my wall! Unfortunately they are very expensive.
    Your miniature version is also beautiful. I am assuming you made this? (I get the feeling I have asked you this before?)

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  9. Josje; A few years ago I'd made a similar one for a Nutty Professor (i.e. Sabiha) Maybe that's where your dejá vu feeling is coming from?

    Unfortunately that wasn't as realistic as this one. Even the base now, where it used to be attached to the skull is grooved and hollow like real ones. I made it of polyclay anI gave it a patina to emphasize the groves. Mounted it on a piece of cherry and labeled it with an engraved brass plaque

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