A Unicorn Compendium
22nd October – 16th December 2009
In his book ‘Lore of The Unicorn’, Odell Shepard describes the Unicorn as being interesting ‘.. Almost entirely as a denizen of “The Monarch Thought’s Dominion”’. I.e. as a creation of man’s imagination.
The legend of the Unicorn stretches back thousands of years; no one is quite sure where or how it began. The first known written description was by Ctesias, a Greek living in Persia in 398 BC, who was passing on information he had heard about this creature in the mysterious country of India. It went on to be mentioned by Aristotle (who thought it could exist), to appearing several times in the Bible (this is thought to possibly be a mis translation of the word re’em, now thought to be a large 2 horned ox, which became extinct before the Bible was translated), hence it becoming a Christian symbol of Christ. Stories of it only being able to be caught by a virgin maid further placed it as a Christian symbol – the unicorn Jesus Christ, the maid the Virgin Mary.
The legend of it’s horn being able to neutralise poisons has led to it also being used in New Age mysticism, and in medieval times unicorn horn was a most sort after substance, and was very expensive. It is now thought those horns passed off as belonging to unicorns came from a variety of creatures, including the narwhal (dolphin like animal with a long sharp tooth), walrus, and possibly mammoth remains.
There are many animals caught up in the unicorn legend, which have been commingled over time to produce various descriptions of the mysterious beast. These include the rhinoceros, the ibex, goat, ox, narwhal, okapi, and even the orang-utan!
These vague and ambiguous descriptions have been worked upon by the imaginations of artists and writers over time, and so Anna Walsh adds her's. The story of the unicorn has been intertwined with those of real animals, most just as strange and fascinating themselves, and reveal just as much about us and our engagement with the natural word, as they do about the unicorn itself.
Anna's paintings are all based on horses and ponies indigenous to the UK and Eire, making the most ordinary equines of our country extraordinary – or perhaps making the extraordinary unicorn ordinary?
The ‘life size’ drawing of a unicorn thundering towards us takes its title (Unicorn from The Stars) from the play by Yeats, where a young man experiences visions of unicorns trampling the ground. He struggles to interpret its meaning and symbolism, in a way what humans have been doing through the ages in their chase of the unicorn.
Unicorne Fell, oil paint 16 x 12 inches
Unicorne Connemara, oil paint 16 x 12 inches
Unicorne Shire, oil paint 16 x 12 inches