Unicorno-mania: dalla mitologia greca all'immaginario contemporaneo = Unicorn-mania: from Greek mythology to contemporary imagery


Abstract


Since 2016 the unicorn has become one of the trendiest subjects in several sectors: from fashion to accessories, to food, as is proved by the launch of drinks such as "unicorn's milk". Yet, what does the unicorn represent in contemporary imagery? In order to answer such a question, this research traces the history of the symbolism of the unicorn, so as to understand how its representation and meaning have changed. Ever since ancient times the Greeks had attributed thaumaturgical powers to the unicorn; in particular, its horn was considered a universal antidote to any poison, whereas the unicorn itself became a symbol of purity. The presence of the figure of the unicorn in Psalm 91 brings the animal close to Christianity. In the Middle Ages the unicorn was often depicted in the illuminated Bibles and was also used in the decorations of the main buildings of the time, usually next to a virgin as an allegory of chastity. For this reason, it became a symbol of chaste love and marital fidelity. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the powder of the unicorn horn was still considered an antidote to poison and even an aphrodisiac. Only in the Victorian Age did the unicorn begin to people children's stories, losing the sexual meaning and being associated with the rainbow for the first time. The connection between the unicorn and the rainbow has led to the present use of the animal as an emblem of LGBT+ community. Nowadays the unicorn embodies the concepts of rarity and magic. It is even worth noting how the term "unicorn" has also become part of the economic language. The instagrammability of the unicorn has made the animal even more popular, making it, in the social media era, the symbol of uniqueness and differentiation from the mass.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22840753n19p105

Keywords: Unicorn; Symbolism; Imaginary; Ancient art; Medieval art; Renaissance art; Modern art; Contemporary art; Instagram; Social media

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