The Unicorn in Raleigh, NC

The North Carolina Museum of Art houses The Triumph of Chastity (ca. 1450-1460), a painting produced by the workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni di Tommaso. The painting was probably presented to a newly wedded couple.

unicorn-crop
The Triumph of Chastity, circa 1450-1460, the Workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni Tempera and gold leaf on panel.

The image is rich in symbolism. Chastity enters Rome in a triumphal procession riding  a unicorn drawn chariot. The link between the virtue of chastity and the state of virginity is emphasized through the medieval European belief that only a virgin could tame a unicorn.

Cupid, symbolizing lust, kneels before Chastity, affirming the virginity of the newly wed bride. The unicorn drawn chariot is surrounded by maidens. One maiden is carrying a banner of ermine, symbolizing purity, while the others carry yokes, representing marriage and obedience. A faithful dog joins the procession in the foreground.

The Giovanni painting shares some of the same themes found in the del Pane marriage portrait of Matteo di Sebastiano di Bernardino Goazzadini to Ginevra d’Antonio Lupari Goazzadini.

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