The instruments

of the Passion

in The Hunt of the Unicorn

John, 18.37-38

Jesus answered : You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.
Pilate said to him : What is truth ?


Even though at times Jean Perréal could distance himself from the dogmas of his Church, his doubts (if there were any) did not concern the belief in God, which his writings often evoke, but rather the belief in those who defended the belief in God.

Jean Perréal believed in God, the Christian deity. He expressed this faith in both prose and verse, depicting it through drawings, paintings, and woven creations. Therefore, it is this faith that one must grasp and analyze through "the anthropological structures of the imaginary," by exposing the myths, legends, and dogmas conveyed by sacred texts and any work that aligns with this creed. This holds true even for those who are atheists and doubt the real existence of a figure named Jesus.




Hans Memling - Scenes from the Passion of Christ - 1470-71 - Galleria Sabauda, Turin

In the order they appear, we must find in Hunting the Unicorn:

1 - the purse of Judas

2 - the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas for the price of treason (Matthew 26.14-15)

3 - the lanterns of the guards, the torches (John 18.3)

4 - the knife or the sword of Peter

5 - the cut off ear (John 18.10-11)

6 - the naked boy (Mark 14.46-52)

7 - the cock reminds to Peter that the hour of his denial (Matthew 26.33-35)

8 - the rope with which Judas hanged himself (Matthew 03.27 -8)

9 - the seamless tunic and the red dress (Matthew 27:27 -28)

10 - the crown of thorns

11 - the palms - the reed (the scepter) placed in the hands of Jesus

12 - the injuries (Matthew 27:29 -31) (Luke 22.63-65)

13 - the indecent gestures (Mark 14.65)

14 - Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, "washes his hands" (Matthew 27.23-26)

15 - the pillar of flagellation

16 - the whips of the flagellation (John 19.1)

17 - the hand of the man who slapped Jesus (John 18.22-23)

18- the pulled hair of Jesus?

19 - the falls of Jesus

20 - Veronica's veil

21 - the Mount of the Calvary, Golgotha, the skull of Adam

22 - the three crosses : the two thieves and Jesus

23 - the placard of the sentence with the inscription "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (John 19.17-20)

24 - the axes, the nails, the pincers, the hammer (John 19, 17)

25 - the cup of bitter drink (bile or myrrh) (Matthew 27:34) (Mark 15.23)

26 - the sponge soaked in vinegar, attached to a branch of hyssop (John 19:28 -30)

27 - the moon and the sun of the eclipse at the time of death (Luke 23.44-45)

28 - the left hand of the man who recognizes the divinity of Jesus (Mark 15:39) (Luke 23.47 -48)

29 - the group of women apart (John 19:25)

30 - John of the Cross (John 19:26 -27)

31 - the dice to choose the clothes (John 19.23-24)

32 - the pierced heart by the centurion's lance (John 19:31 -34)

33 - the scale of the Deposition (Mark 15.46)

34 - the Resurrection (Matthew 28.5-7)


tapestry 2


tapestry 3


The sponge soaked in vinegar is not in chronological order of the instruments of the Passion !

Tapestry 4 : (in the upper left corner) a beech tree (in French : a "beech" and a "person") shot means the imminent death of a king.


tapestry 4

The two horn blowers left and right of the tapestry are reflected in the painting below :

Master of the Strauss Madonna - 1380
Galleria dell 'Accademia - Florence

See in the same museum Florentine
Lorenzo Monaco - 1404
The Man of Sorrows with instruments of the Passion


Tapestry 5

In the missing part, imagine a second fallen unicorn, lying on its side : Jesus falls in his ascent to Calvary.


Reconstitution of the tapestry by Helmut NICKEL
"About the Sequence of the Tapestries
in The Hunt of the Unicorn and The Lady with the Unicorn",
The Metropolitan Museum Journal, n°17, 1984.

"The lost tapestries of the Scottish king James V"


Reconstitution of the tapestry in Stirling Castle.



tapestry 6



On the left, the character carrying the cross is both Simon of Cyrene and Saint Louis bringing the Cross, the spine and three nails.

His sword is blessed by the blood of the unicorn just above vertically


St. Louis Carrying the Crown of Thorns,
French (Tours), 1245-1248
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Cloisters Collection
This stained glass, made during the lifetime of St. Louis,
shows Louis and his brothers.


Driven nails, nails retired ...

3 nails (3 points on the belt).

Where's the hammer ? 2 pairs of tongs (on the cap) ?



Follow the left leg at the top of the character ...

His toe is uncomfortably below the knee of second hunter : the bones of his legs were broken as mentioned in the Bible to the two thieves.

The hammer that we much searched, Howard and I, may be hidden in this tapestry, in the sophisticated design of the hilt of the sword carried by this hunter.


tapestry 7


This tapestry lists 'the points of light' :


— The creation of the Cosmos : FIAT LUX (the expression can be read from right to left and from left to right on the elements of the enclosure)

— The birth of Jesus (the enclosure is the creche, the unicorn seems to rise up)

— Christ's resurrection

— the Second Advent of Christ on earth for the Last Judgement




A butterfly, two dragonflies, a frog : each animal is a symbol of new life that comes after death.

The unicorn, enclosed in a circular enclosure is not attached to the tree, even though the chain might suggest. In the mandorla outlined by the strands of the "lakes of love", the last opened chain link is easily noticeable, allowing the human being to exercise his "free will". The "smile" of the unicorn, full of optimism, may invite to dare such an assumption.

- - - - - - - - - -

In ancient mythology, a god or a hero had to comply with several criteria :
- a mythical ancestry
- an unusual or mysterious origin
- an extraordinary aspect
- exceptional gifts or acts
- an unnatural death
- return after death
Jesus seems to meet these six criteria together. So he belongs to legendary times.

- - - - - - - - - -

By examining the source of the light in the successive tapestries, especially in the foliage of trees, it should be noted that they include the apparent movement of the sun, because the sunny parts of the scenes go from the right (east : sunrise or its "birth" or its "resurrection") in the tapestry 1 to the left (west : sunset, or his "death") subtly into the tapestry 2, and to a greater extent from the tapestry 3 where hunting of the unicorn is woven, then its death in the tapestry 6. It is for the artist and its sponsors, the death of a god.

Tapestry 7 (as tapestry 1) is whole sunny to evoke the resurrection.

- - - - - - - - - -




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