National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Procris and the Unicorn Bernardino Luini (artist)
Milanese, c. 1480 - 1532
Procris and the Unicorn, c. 1520/1522
overall: 228.6 x 108 cm (90 x 42 1/2 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Fresco Cycle with the Story of Procris and Cephalus
Object 9 of 9

Although related to the joyous events from the fifth act, the final scene is another invention that does not appear in the drama. Procris extends one arm gently toward a unicorn, which kneels in deference to her purity. This fabulous animal does not come from ancient mythology but, rather, is a symbol of virginity in the Christian faith.

The unicorn functions as a metaphor, suggesting that, through her earthly sorrows, Procris has suffered martyrdom and been resurrected. Thus, in translating Niccolò da Correggio’s play into painted images, Bernardino Luini followed two Renaissance practices: an interest in reviving classical style as well as a tendency to give moralizing religious meanings to pagan myths.

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