The Stirling Tapestries
As part of the project to re-represent Stirling Palace, Historic Scotland commissioned a set of seven hand-made tapestries. Six of these currently hang in the Queen’s Inner Hall in the Royal Palace. The final one will be hung alongside them in the summer of 2015.
The New York Tapestries
The designs are closely based on a set of Renaissance tapestries held at the Cloisters Museum in New York. These were woven in the Low Countries around 1500. At that time, tapestries were very fashionable and extremely expensive.
The project to produce replica tapestries was part-funded by the Quinque Foundation of the United States.
The Story of the Unicorn
Taken together, the seven tapestries tell the story of a unicorn hunted and killed by a group of huntsmen and dogs. This can be read as both as an allegory of love, and as a Christian parable.
The unicorn was an important mythical beast from Roman times and perhaps earlier. It was believed to be both powerful and pure, and could only be tamed by a maiden.
In the late-medieval period, the unicorn was adopted as the supporter of the Scottish royal coat of arms. We know that James V owned two sets of tapestries featuring a unicorn.
Weaving the New Tapestries
Traditional techniques and materials were used to create the new tapestries, though durable mercerised cotton was substituted for silk.
The tapestry project was managed by West Dean College in West Sussex. The weavers worked in two teams: one based at West Dean College; the other in a purpose-built studio in the Nether Bailey of Stirling Castle.Read the Stirling Tapestry highlights and watch the weavers at work