Our designer has been a long time unicorn-lover and collector of antique and vintage unicorn ephemera. Her desk alone features unicorn books, bookends, and letter openers, and her favorite coffee mugs and water glasses also feature depictions of these mythical creatures. So it was no surprise when she suggested adding a unicorn to our collection of patterns. Mixing inspiration from mille-fleur, the Unicorn Tapestries, and Persian and Indian miniature art, we blended our shared loves into this new print.
Our textiles most often reference early miniature paintings from 13th century Persian art, a technique which was a tremendous influence on Indian Mughal miniature paintings from the 16th and 19th centuries. Fun fact: Amy collects a new modern miniature painting each time she travels to India, and she loves meeting with the artists who craft these unique artworks with tiny delicate brushes. The imagery of the unicorns in our print are modernized interpretations of a Persian papier-mache jewelry box that Amy’s mother always kept on her perfume tray (why don’t we all have perfume trays? - we may need to bring that as a trend!). Persian and Mughal art is thought to be a main source of inspiration for European illuminated manuscripts and tapestry work, especially when it comes to their rendering of animals and plant life, our favorite combination.
Left: Amy's mother's Persian hand-painted papier-mâché box; Right: the Unicorn in Captivity, The Met Cloisters, Gallery 17
Another big inspiration for our print, the series of tapestries entitled the Unicorn Tapestries, is thought to have been designed in Paris at the turn of the sixteenth century. The tapestries were first recorded when they were stolen from an estate, and later popped up in a barn in the 1850s. These beautiful tapestries are a bit of a mystery in the art world - no one seems to know for certain who made them or for what purpose. Regardless, their beautiful and haunting depictions of a unicorn surrounded by mille-fleurs (a common textile floral design from France which translates to a “thousand flowers”), are incredibly striking. Mille-fleur designs were very popular in tapestry work from 1400-1550 and typically feature a variety of plants and flowers on a dark blue or green ground. Similar imagery can also be found in the Holy Grail tapestries commissioned from Morris & Co.
A favorite reference for countless creatives, the Unicorn Tapestries have inspired paintings, textiles, home goods, jewelry and even music and movies. The introduction to the 1982 animated film, The Last Unicorn features an animated scene of the Unicorn Purifies Water tapestry. In the last 1950s or early 1960s, Cera glass released a series of glassware featuring simplified illustrations of the Unicorn in Captivity and the Hunters Enter the Woods. Jewelers and perfumeries have even released lockets and compacts featuring illustrative depictions of these beautiful tapestries.
We’re so excited to see how this print is resonating with our community, and to find so many kindred unicorn-loving spirits - hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning more about the back story and history that inspired this print. We’d love to see you in your new unicorn pj’s, as well as see your own unicorn collections. Tag us on Instagram @printfresh or #printfresh, and as always you’ll be entered to win our monthly drawing for a $150 gift card.