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#3. Decorate! Unicorns add magic to every room.

Updated: Apr 8

That's why people have been decorating with unicorn images for thousands of years! Learn about the famous Unicorn Tapestries and uncover their secret meaning so that you, too, can add magic to your home. Scroll to the end of the post for unicorn crafts!

Did you know there are unicorns in New York City? Well, there are! In the MET’S Cloisters, there is an entire room dedicated to a set of mysterious tapestries called The Unicorn Tapestries.


Tapestries are basically really huge, fancy rugs that are hung up on walls. They are so detailed that from far away, they actually look like a painting. In the Middle Ages, tapestries were hung up in castle rooms not only for decoration, but to try to keep the warmth of the fireplaces inside the cold stone walls.


The Unicorn Tapestries are a set of seven different tapestries that were woven in the Netherlands around the late Middle Ages. Like many tapestries, they are woven from wool yarn, gold thread, and silk. But you may be wondering why we called these tapestries mysterious. It's because we actually don't know that much about them!


Though they were made sometime in 1495, the first time they are mentioned in history is in 1680, where they hung in the Parisian home of the de la Rochefoucauld family. But during the French Revolution, the tapestries went missing. . . only reappear again in a barn in the 1850s. When they were rediscovered, one of the tapestries was in fragments. Today, scholars aren't sure who created them, which order they are supposed to be hung, or even the exact story shown in the colorful threads. So now, it's your turn to try to decode The Unicorn Tapestries!


Below are five of the Unicorn Tapestries. Like a comic book strip, each panel shows a different piece of a bigger story. Using the tapestries, create a story that links the images together, and give each tapestry a name. Under each photo, we've included some questions to help get your creative juices flowing! (A hint! The Unicorn History gives some clues as to what might be happening.)


ACTIVITY ALERT! Younger unicorn experts might prefer another story prompt. Scroll down to the pink paragraph below Tapestry #5 for another suggestion.




Tapestry #1: __________________________________________

Name the tapestry! Click on the picture for a high res version, if you want to see every single detail.


Questions:

· Who are these people and why do you think so using details from the tapestry?

· What do they want?

· What is the boy doing in the top right corner?

· Bonus Quest: Can you spot the hidden letters? What do you think they mean?



Tapestry #2: __________________________________________

Name the tapestry! Click on the picture for a high res version, if you want to see every detail.


Questions:

· What is the unicorn doing and why?

*What other animals are there and why?



Tapestry #3: __________________________________________

Name the tapestry! Click on the picture for a high res version, if you want to see every detail.

Questions:

*What are the people doing and why?

* What is the unicorn doing?


Tapestry #4: __________________________________________

Name the tapestry! Click on the picture for a high res version, if you want to see every detail.

Questions:

*Who is the woman?

*What is she doing and why?


Tapestry #5: __________________________________________

Name the tapestry! Click on the picture for a high res version, if you want to see every detail.

Questions:

*How did the unicorn get here?

*What does the collar around the unicorn's neck mean?



ACTIVITY ALERT: Younger unicorn experts

You are now a medieval zookeeper! Design an enclosure for the queen's new pet unicorn. How big will it be? What kind of features (water, trees, fences, etc.) does it need? How will you care for the unicorn every day? (Prompt taken from MET for Kids).



Congratulations on completing your story, using all your unicorn knowledge and imagination! Here are the official names of the tapestries:


1. The Hunters Enter The Woods

2. The Unicorn is Found.

3. The Unicorn is Attacked.

4. The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn

5. The Unicorn in Captivity


If you're curious how your story matches up with the experts at the museum, you can listen to their stories by clicking on #89, #89.2, and #89.3. below. How are your stories similar? How are they different? Did listening help you catch any more details?


  • If you just want to hear a quick version of the Legend of the Unicorn Hunt, click on #89.3 and start listening at the 21 second mark.

  • Learn more about each individual tapestry on the MET's website.




UNICORN DECORATIONS


1). Learn to draw unicorns with illustrators! Check out the schedule of events here.


2) Color in unicorns! Check out the teacher’s guides for coloring pages.


3) Make unicorn balloons! Visit Design Improvised for instructions.


4) Weave your own unicorn tapestry! Follow the instructions for weaving paper here. Once completed, print and cut out this unicorn (or draw your own!), and glue it onto your weaving to make your very own unicorn tapestry.



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