Capturing the Unicorn
April 28, 2005 9:09 PM   Subscribe

Capturing the Unicorn : How two mathematicians helped the Met to digitally stitch together the Unicorn Tapestry. (via)
posted by dhruva (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So that is how they became extinct.
posted by gunthersghost at 9:27 PM on April 28, 2005

Those tapestries are amazing
posted by karlshea at 9:42 PM on April 28, 2005

"Oh, buttle off and tell Baron Brunwald that Lord Clarence MacDonald and his lovely assistant are here to view the tapestries."

Remarkable work of art. I can't imagine the labour involved in their production. The math stuff... I dunno, the article struck me as having been written by someone that doesn't have a clue but is trying really hard to be intellectual about it.

That second link is really cool though, thanks.
posted by C.Batt at 9:53 PM on April 28, 2005

thanks, [this is good]
posted by killdevil at 10:04 PM on April 28, 2005

Thats wierd timing. I read that story a month ago and was really excited about it, but only mentioned it on Metafilter two days ago. Then it appears suddenly in a bunch of places, including Kottke. Hmmm...
posted by vacapinta at 10:18 PM on April 28, 2005

Great subject. I had never heard about these tapestries and now can't wait to see them.

Now, I don't pretend to be a writing critic of any sorts, but that article rubbed me as very poor witting. The subject is cool, but the writing is so bad that I doubled checked to see that it isn't some sort of high school student submission.
posted by toftflin at 10:23 PM on April 28, 2005

Damn good article -- this is one of those fascinating intersections of intellectual fields that makes Tom Stoppard and Michael Crichton wet their pants. It certainly thrilled me.

I was actually surprised the New Yorker explained such simple elements:
The Chudnovsky brothers were using their homemade supercomputer to calculate the number pi to beyond two billion decimal places. Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is one of the most mysterious numbers in mathematics. Expressed in digits, pi begins 3.14159 . . . , and it runs on to an infinity of digits that never repeat.
I'd bet most New Yorker readers have a grasp on pi.
posted by NickDouglas at 10:34 PM on April 28, 2005

I think all science writing should be addressed to an ignorant but infinitely intelligent reader.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:19 PM on April 28, 2005


Portions of this tapestry are shown in the opening credits of The Last Unicorn, so this personally evokes powerful childhood associations, and having recently picked up a copy of The Lore of the Unicorn in a secondhand bookstore revived the fascination. Thank you for these links.

Again... wow.
posted by Lush at 11:56 PM on April 28, 2005

Anybody have a link to any of the high-res stich-togethers? A before/during/after would be absolutely fascinating. This is when I wish that the in-depth journalism of the New Yorker were combined with the interactivity of the web. If I could have just clicked to see the threads shifting from frame to frame...
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:42 AM on April 29, 2005

Great post.
posted by bruceyeah at 12:42 AM on April 29, 2005

It's also worth learning how to field dress a unicorn once you've filled it with hot lead
posted by anthill at 1:43 AM on April 29, 2005

Grant McCracken's been writing about the strange chain of events required for this and what he thinks it shows about the world recently over at his blog.
posted by dragoon at 3:02 AM on April 29, 2005

I've been trying to track down information comparing the two world-famous series of unicorn tapestries: the one in the Cloisters, known as the Hunt of the Unicorn, and the one in the Paris Cluny Museum (Museum of the Middle Ages), known as the The Lady and the Unicorn (pictures).

They're both early 16th century of Flemish origin. Are they from the same workshop? I guess part of the problem is that there aren't a lot of records of that period.

It doesn't help that each museum kinda hypes each series as unique, when, well, they seem to be two of a kind, with neither acknowledging each other's existence.

Searching the web for unicorn tapestries, I've run across my fill of corny, garish, new-age unicorn-love sites, so thanks, anthill.
posted by Turtle at 3:09 AM on April 29, 2005

Turtle, the Cloisters site says that not much is known about the history at all. Some were probably designed in Paris and most likely woven in Brussels. The French tapestries you've linked began before those from the Cloisters. They're certainly contemporaries, but there's no mention of a religious storyline in the 6 senses tapestries. Both are amazing works.
Thanks dhruva & turtle.
(I note the mathematician brothers didn't get cited in the Cloisters bibliography - or are the website photos different to those produced by 'It'?)
posted by peacay at 3:44 AM on April 29, 2005

vacapinta writes " Thats wierd timing. I read that story a month ago and was really excited about it, but only mentioned it on Metafilter two days ago. Hmmm..."

Vaca-You're the one who pointed me to the article first, so when I give out the prizes for that, you'll be getting that prize and dhruva will be getting stiffed.

dhruva-This is a very cool article, thanks. Vacapinta turned me on to it in that other thread, but when the prizes go out, you'll be getting the cool FPP from the cool article prize, and vaca will be getting stiffed.
posted by OmieWise at 5:41 AM on April 29, 2005

The original New Yorker article about the Chudnovsky brothers, Mountains of Pi, is also a great read.
posted by gwint at 7:45 AM on April 29, 2005

This is awesome. Gracias.
posted by sciurus at 11:26 AM on April 29, 2005

Semi-related: a novel based on the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Written by the same person who wrote Girl with the Pearl Earring.
posted by deborah at 11:30 AM on April 29, 2005

Kissing in Manhattan, by David Schickler, has some great moments involving the Unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters.
posted by Huw at 3:55 AM on April 30, 2005

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