The Scottish Unicorn

Glasgow Mercat Cross

I once mentioned that Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn. As one or two people expressed surprise I planned to write a post about unicorns, and Becky’s current March Squares challenge has given me just the kick I need. It’s Spiky Squares, and what is it that a unicorn has on its forehead if not a great big spike? And, to coin a phrase, I can gore two challenges with one horn by linking to Cathy’s Photography Theme invitation too!

The unicorn was first used on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms in the 12th century. That might seem odd given that it’s not real, but it was chosen for its role in Celtic mythology as a symbol of purity and innocence as well as masculinity and power. You can see an example of the Scottish Arms at the end of this post, but before that here are some more spiky unicorn squares I’ve spotted on my travels.

The header image is Glasgow’s Mercat (Market) Cross, which looks ancient but dates from 1929/30. Below are two examples from the University of Glasgow – one atop the Memorial Gates, and the other on the Lion and Unicorn Staircase (the unicorn is on the left). The staircase dates from 1690 and is one of two structures which were moved from the old university site on High Street to its current home in Gilmorehill in 1870.

The next two are both winter events which we’ve attended in Edinburgh in the last couple of years – Ice Adventure and the Chinese Lanterns at the zoo.

Still in Edinburgh, the golden unicorn on the left below adorns the doors of the Queen’s Gallery. The one on the right is from HMS Unicorn in Dundee.

There are two versions of this straw unicorn because I think it’s so beautiful. It’s in Crawick Multiverse, a landscape art site in Galloway.

And finally, this is not my picture, but here’s an example of the Arms of Scotland as used from the 12th century until 1603 when James VI of Scotland updated it after inheriting the English throne.

Sodacan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
So that’s my quick gallop through Scottish unicorns! Don’t forget to head over to Becky’s blog to see her Spiky Squares, running daily till the end of March, and to Cathy’s blog ~wander.essence~ for lots more travel loveliness.

Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi: Self Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria

Artemisia Gentileschi, the most celebrated female painter of the 17th century, was born in Rome in 1593. Her date of death is unknown, but it must be after 1654 when she is recorded as living in Naples. Self Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria (c 1615-17) has recently been acquired by the National Gallery in London, restored, and sent out on tour to unusual and unexpected destinations including a library, a school, and a health centre. The painting’s first stop is Glasgow Women’s Library where it is on display until 19th March, so hurry along if you are in the area.

Who was St Catherine of Alexandria? In the 4th century she was sentenced to death for her Christian beliefs and tied to a wheel studded with iron spikes. Although she was miraculously freed by angels, she could not escape a martyr’s death and was later beheaded. In Artemisia’s portrait she leans on the broken wheel with her left hand while her right hand holds a martyr’s palm. I spent an hour in the same room as Catherine / Artemisia and continually returned to that beautiful, clear gaze.

You can read more on the National Gallery’s site:

I wonder if Artemisia would approve of being added to a blogging challenge? If it gets more people looking at her wonderful painting, maybe she would. I’m linking to Becky’s Spiky Squares.