‘Finding The Unicorn’ Tapestries Open At The Fleming Collection

Katharine Swailes’ design for “The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn,” 2011. ©Historic Scotland.

LONDON — An exhibition celebrating the timeless skills of tapestry weavers from the medieval era to modern times by focusing on one of Britain’s most important royal refurbishment projects is on view at The Fleming Collection through June 1.

The exhibition, “Finding the Unicorn — Tapestries Mythical and Modern,” includes one of a group of seven tapestries woven for the reborn Sixteenth Century Royal Palace at Stirling Castle in Scotland and the design for the last tapestry in the series. These are being shown alongside other work by West Dean Tapestry Studio, a tapestry by Henry Moore and an installation explaining how a Tracey Emin painting was translated into tapestry.

The tapestries for Stirling Castle are one of the biggest weaving projects to be undertaken in Britain for two centuries and were woven by the West Dean Tapestry Studio, based in Sussex, working alongside Historic Scotland and the Historic Scotland Foundation.

The Fleming Collection has become an embassy for Scottish art in London and so is the ideal venue for the exhibition.

Work on the series of seven medieval tapestries, collectively titled “The Hunt of the Unicorn,” for the Queen’s Inner Hall is now nearing completion after 12 years, and the exhibition at The Fleming Collection marks this important milestone.

“The Unicorn is Found,” one of the tapestries woven by the West Dean Tapestry Studio, forms the centerpiece of the exhibition and is the first time that it has gone on show outside Scotland. It took three West Dean weavers, Caron Penney, Katharine Swailes and Jo Howard, a total of 16,647 working hours to complete this one tapestry over 3½ years.

The Stirling Castle tapestries are new interpretations of originals, made in the Low Countries, where James V is known to have purchased tapestries. The originals are on display in The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, where the weavers spent many hours researching the project.

But the design for the final tapestry in the series, “The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn,” presented Swailes with a challenging project as it is based on two surviving fragments from a lost tapestry rather than a complete work. The tapestry will be completed next year.

The Fleming Collection is at 13 Berkeley Street in Mayfair. For additional information, www.flemingcollection.com or 44 020 7042 5730.

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