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Between and Mortarboard


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92 Items in this Learning Collection

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Dragon head (finial for a staff or a piece of ceremonial furniture)

Accession Number
1969/2.20

Title
Dragon head (finial for a staff or a piece of ceremonial furniture)

Artist(s)
Japanese

Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
13th century - early 14th century

Medium & Support
polychrome on wood

Dimensions
10 7/8 in. x 11 15/16 in. x 3 3/4 in. ( 27.6 cm x 30.4 cm x 9.6 cm )

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund

Label copy

Dragon’s head sculpture
Japan
Kamakura period (1185–1333)

13th–early 14th century Polychrome on wood
Museum purchase made possible
by the Margaret Watson Parker Art
Collection Fund, 1969/2.20

Dragons have a long history in Japan with deep connections to Buddhism. The many words for dragon that are borrowed from Chinese and Sanskrit suggest the amount of dragon mythology brought to Japan by Buddhist monks in the form of ancient Hindu and Chinese legends.

This dragon’s head reflects the increased interest in visually dramatic forms that characterized Kamakura period Buddhist sculpture. The rippling snout and mouth suggest a sense of movement, which would have been further enhanced by the reflections of the gold paint originally used for the teeth and eyes. The bright colors and dynamic carving convey a sense of the power of dragons in premodern spiritual traditions.Within Japanese Buddhism, dragons were associated with water and were called upon in rain rituals. This sculpture was likely mounted on a staff or a piece of furniture in a Buddhist structure.



Primary Object Classification
Wood and Woodcarving

Primary Object Type
figure

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
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Keywords
Objects of adornment

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved