The Unicorn Tapestries

A letter from Eudora Welty to John Robinson written in July of 1944 led me to The Unicorn Tapestries displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I love reading the letters which Julia Eichelberger has selected and edited in Tell About Night Flowers Eudora Welty’s Gardening Letters.

In this letter Miss Welty described the medieval gardens at the Cloisters so vividly that you feel like you are walking along beside her!

She enters the building and gives the most beautiful tour through the tapestry room.

Inside, the most wonderful thing of all was the series of Unicorn tapestries – 5 whole ones, and two fragments – showing the hunt and capture of a Unicorn in a flowery woods…

Metropolitan Museum of Art Unicorn Tapestries

The beautiful part is the perfection of all the flower forms, a millefleurs background at times and then in other tapestries a naturalistic treatment, with background of woods (trees growing near each other that really would, oak, walnut, cherry, etc.) and then an orange or plum in a planted place…

Metropolitan Museum of Art Unicorn Tapestries

and near a stream will be irises, columbines, ferns, etc…

Metropolitan Museum of Art Unicorn Tapestries

 Each little flower so exact.  Hundreds of different kinds.  The animals so spirited – the white dogs…

Metropolitan Museum of Art Unicorn Tapestries

the little hindquarters of scampering rabbits, ducks starting up, in the marsh, birds beginning to flush, and most wonderful of all the Unicorn…

Metropolitan Museum of Art Unicorn Tapestries

He has a wonderful scrolled, twisted, towering horn, a little beard, snow white and plumy tail, and soft hairs around his legs and sharp hoofs.  He looks as if only a virgin could catch him…

Metropolitan Museum of Art Unicorn Tapestries

All around the tapestries, which are as large as a room, goes a border of twined flowers and fruits and vines – vinca, and blackberry (in flower)…How are you- I hope everything is all right and the same…

Much love,


I feel like I just walked through there with her!

Metropolitan Museum of Art Unicorn Tapestries

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  1. Susan Haltom says:

    Lovely! Don’t you just love an author who had the talent for vivid description, and who was learned and accurate as well? Thanks for sharing the images. Of course it is all the more amazing that all this detail is in tapestries, not paintings.

    • says:

      Yes, her eye for detail and the ability to describe things so that they come alive for you is always amazing to me. Indeed the ability to create these scenes in tapestry is unbelievable. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!