be yourself, unless you can be a medieval unicorn

unicorn (3 of 3)Historiae_animalium_1551_De_Monoceroteunicorn (2 of 3)

Unicorns! How curiously you’ve evolved in the popular consciousness over the past thousand years or so. I’m not one to consume sugary beverages named after these beguiling creatures, nor particularly a fan of the stylized neon unicorn that seem to permeate our visual culture these days – but man, do I love medieval and early modern unicorns.

This dress satisfies my fantasy need in a subtle way: spotting the unicorn amidst this pastel castle landscape is a true challenge, and from afar, the print looks like a simple blend of Fauvist colors. No one needs to know that a fairy tale is taking place on my very skirt!

(By the way, that handsome fellow above is from a sixteenth-century Swiss woodcut, back in the days when unicorns still had teeth!)

unicorn (1 of 3)

This unicorn – alas! – is not bearded, but I’ll endure. I love its graceful silhouette and how the exaggerated perspective makes it look larger than trees, pennants, gusts of wind – what have you.

Fantastic beasts aside: look at those gorgeous mountains in the distance! Where do you imagine this dreamy castle is located? I’m guessing Fantasy-Germany, maybe?

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I also appreciate how the bodice of the dress is left plain: making this even more in line with my newly minimalist tendencies. (If only that challenging 70s ruching weren’t there!)

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I would be remiss if I didn’t include one of my favorite unicorns of all time – The Unicorn in Captivity, part of the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestry cycle. Replicas of these tapestries hang at Stirling Castle in Scotland (where I first saw them!) and the originals hang out at the Cloisters in NYC (where I’ve sadly yet to go!). Let us all aspire to be as cool and collected under pressure as this guy.

5 thoughts on “be yourself, unless you can be a medieval unicorn

  1. Pingback: snail mail favorites: sirens & sand dollars | mailbox mermaid

  2. I adore archaic unicorns, with beards and split hooves and feral eyes. We have a couple of them strewn throughout the city thanks to the Scottish coat of arms and Hanover’s connection to the United Kingdom. That dress is so beautiful, very mid-century children’s book illustration, I love it!

    • I really do love that bold heraldic Scottish unicorn design: my favorite to spot during my time there! Historic unicorns are as rare as – well, unicorns – here in the States, but I’m doing my best to spread the word.

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