Maerten de Vos: unicorn

1572, oil on wood, height: 137 cm

A cycle of paintings with almost life-size depictions of exotic animals have not only been under the ownership of the Dukes of Mecklenburg since Oudry. As early as 1576 ten works from the Antwerp grand master Maerten de Vos were inserted into the wall panels in a room at Schwerin Palace. Six of the paintings from this cycle dated from 1572 are still there, and four are now owned by the state museum. The source from 1576 indicates that the works were created for Schwerin. They document not only Duke John Albert I’s level of aspiration but also the cultural connection between Mecklenburg and the north Baltic region that was dominated by the Dutch.

Maerten de Vos had already painted the grand palace chapel in Celle near Hannover for Duke William the Younger from Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel. The Mecklenburg Duke drew level and also created a “dream menagerie”. A collection of living wild and preferably exotic animals was an opportunity for a ruler to express himself in the same way as an art collection. With the cycle from the Antwerp painter the Schwerin Duke added to the artworks in the palace and also created an ideal menagerie – no other ruler had a unicorn in his collection!


Text: G. S.

The exhibit refers to:

Mecklenburg until 1945

Look here for the original exhibit:

Staatliches Museum Schwerin

Staatliches Museum Schwerin

Alter Garten 3
19055 Schwerin