Unicorn Tapestries I. The Fountain / by Kerri McGill

The Unicorn Tapestries at the NY Met are the source of one on my most terrifying childhood memories. I watch, alone, in an enormous room as an unstoppable throng of murderers dash from wall to wall on a bloodthirsty search for the delicate unicorn. The lopsided battle and generous bloody details are a little too much for a soft-hearted five yr. old who has no curiosity for historical symbolism. My wailing forces my mother into an early exit.

Almost thirty years later I find myself working in Manhattan for a small stint. I revisit the scene of the crime, curious about a memory's accuracy. I am way off. The room is a far cry from the enormous sunlit corridor my kid-brain made it out to be. It is a tiny dark room. The tapestries fill the walls. They are enormous. The tightness of the room makes them even more overwhelming. I cannot focus on a whole image at once. And then, I squat down to the height I would have been, and it all comes back.

At 5'7" I can barely
take in all the details of the tapestries. Half the height makes the viewing more intimate. The lower eye level pulls you into very specific details of a busy composition. Pulling the other elements together becomes a great effort. Unfortunately for the five year old me, those details are often the bloody ones.

The first wall sets up the drama. The image is an elegant
circular composition around the fountain. The hunting party arches over the top of the tapestry while an assortment of wildlife, all hunting possibilities, rest in the foreground at the bottom of the tapestry. A lower perspective cannot see an entire composition. As far as the young I am cconcerned, I too am a possible target for the hunt. I am eye level with the beasts. I also hide behind fountain and shrubbery from the looming hunt party passing by.... And if it wasn't for that jerk in the yellow socks....


Unicorn images may be subject to copyright.