January 14, 2020

10 Dragons, 1000 Posts

        This is my 1000th blog post.  (Do posts work like paper cranes, granting me a wish for peace now that I’ve reached 1000?  Well, I can always wish.)  To celebrate the blog I am sharing a selection of some of my favorite dragons that I’ve discovered in my research into bestiaries.  How about 10 dragons, celebrating 100 posts each?
        These images range from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, and the first dragon, with its delightfully bird-like build and leafy tail, is the earliest of this bunch.  The second dragon has remarkably beautiful wings, and it should be noted that more than half of these dragons have feathered wings, rather than the leathery bat-like wings considered standard today.  It also has a remarkably beautiful background and borders.  (Remember that you can click on the pictures to see them bigger.)
        The next looks like it would be right at home in the 1930s instead of the 1430s, and the one beside it is actually just a marginal decoration rather than an illustration of any creature in particular.  I love that it’s breathing foliage instead of fire.  The fifth is a scitalis, which is a kind of serpent notable for its wondrous markings.  Presumably it should have been portrayed as a snake, sans legs or wings, but medieval bestiaries have a tendency to turn all sorts of serpents into dragons, and I’m not complaining.
        The yellow and orange dragon with the head like a puppy dog is part of the illustration of the peridexion tree of India.  This tree repels dragons, so that any doves that stay within its branches are safe from the predations of dragons.  It also sits upon a lovely background design.
        The next dragon, with proper batwings and interestingly webbed feet, is another marginal decoration, and the multicolored beast on gold is another scitalis.  I included the brown dragon below for its goofy grimace.  You can see at once that it was painted by the same artist who made the goofily grimacing malacomorph I featured four years ago.  In fact, if you search the manuscript (link in the credits) you will be amazed by how almost every creature on earth can be depicted with a goofy grimace.  Goofy grimaces must be the superpower of that particular fourteenth-century artist.
        And finally, an amphisbaena, a double-headed serpent.  Like the scitalises, this one has sprouted gratuitous legs and wings.  Speaking of legs, however, while the serpents may have more legs than expected, the dragons have fewer.  There are certainly some medieval dragons with four legs, but not all that many, and I haven’t included any in this celebratory collection.  The dragon/wyvern distinction  hadn’t been invented yet.
        Well, I hope you enjoy these dragons, which have certainly delighted me!  And I hope you've enjoyed this blog over the past 1000 posts.

[Pictures: Dragon, illustration from English Bestiary, 4th quarter of the 12th century (Image from the British Library);
Dragon, illumination from Franco-Flemish Bestiary, c 1270 (Image from J. Paul Getty Museum);
Dragon from Bestiarius Philippi Taeoniensis, 14th century (Image from Kongelige Bibliotek);
Marginal decoration from Hebrew Festival prayer book, Italian, 3rd quarter of the 15th century (Image from the British Library);
Scitalis, illumination from English Bestiary, 1226-1250 (Image from Bodleian Libraries);
Dragon and Peridexion Tree, illumination from French Bestiary, 13th century (Image from Bibliotheque Nationale de France);
Bas-de-page illustration of a dragon from the Queen Mary Psalter, 1310-1320 (Image from the British Library);
Scitalis, illumination from the Aberdeen Bestiary, c 1200 (Image from University of Aberdeen);
Dragon, illumination from Der naturen bloeme by van Maerlant, c 1350 (Image from National Library of the Netherlands);
Amphisbaena, illustration from Bestiary, 1236 - c 1250 (Image from the British Library).]

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