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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

17th Century 'Dragon' At Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sea Dragon
Date:17th century


Medium:Wood, brass

Approx. : H. 20.3 x W. 8.9 x L. 138.4cm (8 x 3 1/2 x 54 1/2in.) Bocal & Reed: L. 22.9 cm (9 in.)
Classification:Aerophone-Reed Vibrated

Credit Line: The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889

Accession Number:89.4.881a-c

This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 684

This and a similar dragon in The Cincinnati Art Museum are the only known instruments of this kind to survive. Used as a stage prop, it probably appeared in masquerades and theatrical scenes depicting the underworld. The instruments were capable of producing sounds and noises that supported onstage dramaturgical actions both visually and aurally. Made from two joined hollowed out lengths of wood, the dragon was then sculpted, painted a dark green and gilded on its head and fins. During the 19th century the body was partially re-painted black. The original mouthpiece and bocal are now missing

-Interestingly, this late dragon design is basically also like a Plesiosaur with a big head: the head and neck, body and tail are each about one third of the total length. The head is clearly separated from the body by a length of neck and at the base of the neck are two large fins or flippers: there are also indications of sockets for two more fins or flippers at the base of the tail, but these have been removed. The neck is thinner than the body and is curved into a very shallow s-shape, the body is thicker at the shoulder and then tapers back to the end of the tail, as is specified in certain reports. The head is remarkable in that it does show the "horns" as ears once again, but also the nostrils are placed in front of the eyes (in the proper place for a Plesiosaur) and there seem to be indications for both the Euryapsid openings of the skull and also the ear-holes indicated separately. Furthermore there are reports whuch seem to indicate a "Ruffle" of loose skin all the way around the back of the head, and in this case adorned with the "Mane" which once again seems to be composed of fleshy strips rather than hair) -DD.

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