Battle-Axe with Dragon Head
Arts of the Islamic World
Shared motifs and designs in the art of diverse cultures along the Silk Route
provide some of the most visible evidence of cultural transmission between
China and the Islamic world. Through trade, tribute, gift exchange, and the
spread of religions such as Buddhism, Manichaeism, Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam, imagery associated with one artistic tradition was often adapted
or incorporated in another cultural context. Motifs that appear across the arts
of China, Central Asia, and the Islamic world include fantastical animals such
as dragons and phoenixes; cloud bands and cloud collar motifs; and flowers
such as lotuses and peonies. Yet the meanings linked to these motifs often
did not transfer from one context to the next. Similar imagery could exist
simultaneously in several regions while signifying different things.
The dragon represents one of the enduring motifs of Chinese art; it has
acquired a range of auspicious meanings over time, symbolizing creation,
life-giving rain, and the benevolent power of the emperor.
Dragons were also familiar to Iranian, Anatolian, Central Asian, and Indian
cultures and were represented as peaceful and benevolent or terrifying and
violent depending on Manichaean, Soghdian, Khotanese, or Armenian mythology. The dragon decorating the back of an Ottoman axe might have
served as a fear-inducing and simultaneously protective image.
31 in. (78.7 cm)
Other (Blade): 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm) (show scale)
This item is not on view
Gift of Percy C. Madeira, Jr.
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Battle-Axe with Dragon Head, 17th-18th century. Steel, 31 in. (78.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Percy C. Madeira, Jr., 42.245.5. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 42.245.5_bw.jpg)
overall, 42.245.5_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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