The Pilgrim...

in The Hunt of the Unicorn

on the Path of Initiation.


The tapestries of The Hunt offers three kinds of travels :

— the interior journey of the pilgrim, to meet himself
— the journey into space along the river to meet the nature, its fauna and its flora, to meet the city of human beings
— the journey through time to meet his ancestors

Presentation of Christ's Passion through the hunting of the unicorn is doubled by the representation of the process of individuation of a man.

The path of this character in the foreground is also the path of a hero or a shaman during initiation who begins in tapestry 3 his individuation process in the most complete isolation. His lifted eyes and facial features indicate a ecstatic state favorable to the demands of the unconscious. In the next tapestry, the face appears serene. Ecstasy seems reborn on his face in the tapestry 6 where his quest is over.

No critic takes into account this character who still appears three times in a central position in the foreground ! The reconstructions of the incomplete tapestry do not depict this. Why this absence which is difficult to explain ?

The first four tapestries show a male-dominated world, as if all Femininity was excluded. The hero's mission is to restore the presence of the Woman in the exclusive world of all-powerful and cruel lords and hunters. His Anima will be his guide and mediator towards the realization of his Self, the Totality of his Being, in the union of opposites (the conjonctio oppositorum) that represents the lower right portion of the tapestry 6, through the royal couple and circle as a watermark.

A symbolic border water (return to original waters) isolates him from the outside world, that of Conscious. The Woman is relegated to the Next-World, the collective and individual unconscious ; he must pick her and bring back her in the world of conscious, to reconcile each with his Self and every member of the society with this regenerated society.

Bridge of tapestry 3 clearly indicates the nature of the initiatory quest. To reach the Next-World, he must defeat the Shadow which still lives in him and obscures the minds of others. This Shadow is represented by hunter who stands on the bridge, Lucifer-Satan with his disjointed body, who tracks and threat his Anima represented frontally by the white unicorn.

We would have liked to know in its entirety the tapestry 5 where female figures appear first.

Tests of a sexual nature are metaphorically presented in tapestries 2, 3, 4 and 5, related to the unconscious drives where anima of the hero is sometimes positive, sometimes negative and violent. The unicorn is successively subjected to tests, rewarding (tapestries 2 and 3) or humiliating (tapestries 4 and 5). The perpetrators of these acts of violence which have strong erotic tone are Shadow of the hero, his part of fantasy.
He must fight and defeat himself and this instinctive sexual urge, and violent and male chauvinist behavior of men, lords and hunters, that his shadow, his double black, reveals. This inner struggle causes "deep wounds" as wounds (Christic stigmatas ) that the body of the unicorn presents. He must go his way, impassive, his anima positive guiding him more surely in his individuation.


He must cross deserts, real ans psychic (that these large areas without vegetation represent).




The tapestries show the (three?) tests (as traditionally in heroic tales) both the unicorn and by identification, the hero.

Princes with their the engaging faces, conscious of the atrocities that are around them, are figurations of the Elders who would protect the anima-unicorn against the shadow-Lucifer. These Sages, that the king of of tapestry 6 subsumes, are projections of the Self ; they refer to the way of mental balance, individually and collectively ; they reveal that must restrain the ardor of "Evil" (instinctual drives), and give to Femininity, to anima, its rightful place in the human male.

Our hero has to walk again and again because he is not reached the end of his asceticism : he remains a long way on the path of Knowledge to succeed finally his quest for him and for the community of humans . A final test awaits him : death, resurrection and before the release of captives from The Next-World that the crowd passing under the arch means.

The quest reaches its end. the couple animus-anima is united in loved and active hierogamy and presents conjonctio oppositorum, the condition of Self-realization. The royal couple is regarded as the Primordial Androgyne who wants to prove the collective regeneration and return to equilibrium.

The room of love will be the orchard of tapestry 7 where the serenity of the unicorn is the result of the Mystical Union, the realization of the Primordial One, this fusion where ecstasy is born, linked to the access of the Initiate to Knowledge of the Great Whole. The hero-walker became God.

It is in the tapestry 7 (number 7 symbolizes the human totality and perfection ; 7 is also the number of hermetic Androgyne and completed cycle) the complete serenity is reached.

Thus, the painter has meant the role model of his hero ; his presence closer to us on the tapestries emphasizes the high symbolic value, personal and social, of his behavior and his quest. Regeneration of the individual and the society is achieved when Femininity has regained its essential central place.

In a reading that owes much to Carl Gustav Jung and I would pull towards René Girard, the shadow was finally integrated and its negative aspect destroyed, as in the contents of the unconscious individual and the collective unconscious.

Femininity, a vital source of regeneration and gateway to the Knowledge of the Great Whole, has found its place.

The scapegoat has no reason to exist in this new human society.


That is why the pilgrim of The Hunt carries a sword.

In the Christian tradition, the Christian is seen as a warrior.

Paul, Ephesians 6:11-17 :

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The Christian must engage in the battle "against the wiles of the devil," an internal struggle against their impulses, instincts, and desires. This fight is waged, by our pilgrim from the shore, with symbolic weapons.

Paracelsus (1493-1541), a contemporary of Jean Perréal, always carried a sword by his side. He called it his Azoth, and its pommel was said to contain the Emerald of the Wise or the Stone of Hermes, also known as the Alchemical Emerald, fallen from the sky from Lucifer's forehead.


The pilgrim arrives at the confluence of two rivers.

He walks along the river that will receive water from another river on the left that crosses the unicorn.
Like the unicorn, the pilgrim will be interfering in his march which becomes dangerous.
Both, unicorn and pilgrim have to face biting from dogs and spears.

Two "maleficent" beings block their passage and directly threat them : the dog black-tailed at the confluence and the hunter on the wooden bridge.


Physical danger for the unicorn, psychological risk for the pilgrim who may be tempted by Lucifer.
Having reached the bivium at this fork of his journey, the pilgrim will he take the right path ? The "straight" way down the river to "humanity" of the city that welcomes him.



The Pilgrim has met the three kinds of men : homo bestialis, spiritualis et deiformis.

He has followed the precepts that St. Bonaventure states in The Triple Way, De triplici Via - composed after 1259 : "It is therefore necessary to reach peace, truth and charity, to rise such as by three degrees as triple way,

— The purgative way, which consists in the removal of sin,

— The illuminative way which consists in the imitation of Christ,

— The unitive way which consists in the reception of the Spouse. [...]

— Each way has its degrees by which, starting from below we reach the top. "

The artist, while its composition, according to the Devotio moderna, had to "meditate", that is to say "walk in the footsteps of Christ and imitate him" ; well, he had to "conform his life to that of Christ "by engaging" himself as a pilgrim of God on this earth. "

The Hunt emphasizes " the ascetic experience in the form of spiritual autobiography depicting the wanderings, the disappointments and profits of the pilgrimage on earth."

The Hunt seems to prefigure the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola and his double pilgrimage.


The pilgrim has the stick (a spear), and walks close to us, on the other side of the river. He seems stranger to the scenes of the Passion represented on the other side. He raises his head towards the city in front of him where the the Light, Wisdom, other Initiates are waiting for him.

This pilgrimage seems to take the "dry way" of a terrestrial path and the "wet way" of a river lined. It is placed at the beginning under the sign of the shell of St. Jacques de Compostela that touches the apostle in the second tapestry.





The Pilgrim begins his march.

His right leg is still hidden by a small pomegranate.

Let us read in the tree the symbol of the unity of the faith, concord and peace ;

in the fruit, the symbol of the fullness of hope and fertility ;

in the red juice, the symbol of the blood of Christ.


Our pilgrim does not seem to cross the river because it is certainly the "River of Death". The hunt for the beast, the Unicorn (The Passion) which takes place on the other side evokes that very well. And the only possible way, the bridge, is occupied by Lucifer !

Our pilgrim who travels off the ways where are the other characters of the tapestries like one of those alchemists Jung speaks of :

" Instead of following the Church, the alchemists preferred the pursuit of knowledge to the truth that is found through faith." (Carl Gustav Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, p. 52)

This pilgrimage, from a tapestry to another tapestry, recalls the "celestial pilgrimage" of Plato and the race of heroes (like Jason and the Argonauts) and this pattern will be repeated in alchemy.

We should be explored in detail if the pilgrimage does not take place through the seven planetary spheres (there are seven tapestries) : The Hunt would find then what Jung calls "an exemplary value regarding the progress and the symbolism of the process of individuation" (p.278, tome 1)

This pilgrim could be a "descendant" of Perceval.

In French, Perceval is the man who "pierces" the "val" (the valley), that is to say who discoveres the hidden castle of the Fisher King and pierces the secret of his own history in the same time he discoveres the procession of the Grail.

Perceval is the man who crosses the valley and the river (pierces - val), who goes on the other side (the hero of alchemy), who crosses the bridge to join the King and Queen together (symbols of self-control , autonomy, knowledge of the total being ).

To reach the truth of the afterlife, mercury alchemical or philosopher's stone, the carbuncle which was under the horn of the unicorn.

He wears three different suits (perhaps a fourth in the incomplete tapestry) to mark that he is a new man after each step, walking along the water, element of physical and spiritual regeneration.

The river, sometimes calm and quiet, now restless and noisy, represents the passions necessary for every human being throughout his life, as water is for watered and irrigated lands for future harvests.

The Greeks had surrounded the Earth by a river-ocean named Okeanos, son of Heaven and Earth. Okeanos and his sister-wife Thetis had created, as a primordial couple, all the gods and all living beings. The Garden of Eden was also crossed by a river.


Is the Pilgrim Jean Perréal ?

After his return from Italy in late 1499, he becomes a servant of Queen Anne of Brittany, who takes him under his protection. We believe that from this date, the Queen will reveal him to himself and show him the way to becom an exceptional artist that Howard and I want to 'resuscitate'.

In the tapestry 2 (The Fountain) : no dog has the letters' A 'and '3' for 'AnnE' ; the pilgrim is not yet walking.






In the tapestry 3 (The crossing of the river) : the letters' A 'and '3' appear on some collars.
At the extreme left, a man seems to release the dog whose collar has the two letters.
We want to read the following message : Anne of Brittany encourages the artist to become every day in his life of man and creative artist "the pilgrim of the heavenly Jerusalem."
In educating, she finds for him (perhaps) a new name : "Perro Real." Baptism at the beginning of a new life.
He goes, accompanied by two dogs, one of which released wearing a collar with letters' A 'and '3'. This is the beginning of his initiation, his spiritual quest.

In Tapestry 4 (The unicorn defends itself) : the artist walks entirely in his inner quest, not looking at the events that take place on the other side of the river and to which he does not participate.

In the tapestry 5 (incomplete) : we will never know where was our pilgrim, but no doubt about his presence.

In the tapestry 6 (Death of the Unicorn) : the artist seems to come to the end of his inner quest, his Great Work, in any case his pictorial work. He is faced with the king and queen together.

Signs of the fingers for recognition between initiates

The artist is also the dog that the dolphin thanks and salutes. Branches of laurel and oak 'crown' from below the artist as a sign of consecration, of heroic triumph and striking force.

Double royal symbolism to celebrae the "Red Work" , the final stage, the regeneration expressed in the following tapestry where the unicorn is reborn in its enclosure, topped with pomegranate and its pomegranates bearing crowns.




If we compare the faces, can we say that the pilgrim has grown older ?


Consider the two dogs that accompany the pilgrim :
—In the tapestries 3 and 4, they wander free, the two front legs lifted as a sign of freedom and jubilation.

— in the tapestry 6 :
- One, in foreground, stands straight on its four legs, its head high, free, in erection it seems.
- The other half hidden by his friend, kept on a leash,its head down near the right bottom of our "pilgrim", as submissive posture.
Can we conclude that the first dog shows the newly acquired self-control and the positive outcome of the quest, the second dog evokes "animals" instincts submitted, the five senses under control ?


The Pilgrim became a 'real' man :
one of two dogs offers at our gaze a sex clearly a visible sign of a 'resurrection'
(under the appearance of an 'erection').

It is possible to think that the couple of dogs which accompany the "pilgrim" in his quest for individuation is composed with a female and a male (as the royal couple). So are gathered the anima and the animus, in harmony. They represent the hermaphrodite fullness of the Self, the entire Self, in its feminine-masculine aspect.

We only have three representations of the man we call "the pilgrim".
It should be also in the tapestry 2 : is he the man (the apostle John) who looks "Judas" or the man ("Matthew") who stands behind "Peter" who asks (finger raised) to start up ?
He had to be in the tapestry 5, but we will never see him.


Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the profane,1965

"The path and the walk could be transfigured in religious values, because any path can symbolize the" way of life ", and every walk a " pilgrimage ", a Journey to the Center of the World."

"The initiation usually involves a triple revelation : that of the sacred, that of death and that of sexuality."

The Hunt gives us al l: Genesis, Christ's Passion and sexuality in the marriage of the queen and the king and in the 'rediscovered' virility of the dog.





anne de beaujeu, anne de bourbon, anne de France, antoine le viste, Apocalypse Angers athena, boussac, brandon, charles brandon, charles quint, charles v, chasse a la licorne, cinq sens, claude de France, cloisters, connetable de bourbon, dame, duc de suffolk, françois 1er, george sand, gout, henri VIII, henry VIII, jean le viste, jean Perréal, jehan de paris, le viste, licorne, lion, louis XII, louise de savoie, marie tudor, mary tudor, minerve, miroir de naples, chambord, musée de cluny, nombre d'or, odorat, ouie, pavie, Perréal, perréal, Pierre de beaujeu, La rochefoucauld, hardouin IX de Maille, Louis 1er d'Anjou, Grégoire XI, Urbain VI, Francesco Petrarca, François Pétrarque, Catherine de Sienne, Brigitte de Suède, Avignon, palais des papes, comtat venaissin, prosper merimee, suffolk, tapisserie, tenture, vue, connetable von bourbon, das sehvermögen, das zelt, der dame à la licorne, der gehörsinn, der geruchssinn, der geschmackssinn, der tastsinn, einhorn, einhorndame, franz den ersten, herzog von suffolk, karl v, löwe, mein einziges verlangen, museum von cluny, spiegel von neapel, tapisserien, anne of bourbon, anne of france, claude of france, connetable of bourbon, duke of Suffolk, francis the 1st, golden section, hearing, jehan of paris, louise of savoy, mirror of naples, musee of cluny, pavia, sight, smell, tapestry, taste, tent, the hase of the unicorn, the lady and the unicorn, touch, unicorn, dama al unicornio, museo de cluny, tapicerías, museo de la edad media y de thermes de cluny, la caza al unicornio, el gusto, el oído, la vista, espejo de napoles, duque de suffolk, el olfalto, el tacto, la carpa, mi deseo unico, carlos v, condestable de borbon, atenas, la signora all'unicorna, tappezzeria, Jehan di Parigi, Claudia di Francia, François 1o, Museo del Medioevo, la caccia all'unicorno, la storia di Persée, il gusto, l'udito, regina bianca, Louise della Savoia, la vista, lo Specchio di Napoli, duca di Suffolk, l'odorato, il contatto, Pavia, Carlo V, Connétable di Bourbon