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Two Dragons among Clouds and Waves

Artist Culture
Chinese
Dynasty
Ming dynasty, 1368–1644
Period
Xuande period, 1426–1435
through Tianshun period, 1457–1464
Date
mid-15th century
Material
Hanging scroll: ink on silk
Made in
China, Asia
Classification
Paintings
Current Location
Not on view
Dimensions
107 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. (273.1 x 92.1 cm)
image: 53 1/4 x 33 in. (135.3 x 83.8 cm)
Credit Line
William K. Bixby Trust for Asian Art
Rights
Public Domain
Object Number
92:1927
NOTES
A large dragon hovers in the cloud-covered sky at the upper left as a smaller dragon swimming in the ocean has only its head visible. The old dragon, with its long whiskers and scaly body, strikes a protective pose with both front legs extended toward the small struggling dragon. Subtly shaded clouds emphasize both action and atmosphere in the composition.

This is a rare example of a new theme created by early Ming court artists to convey the political message "Old Dragon Leading Its Son to Worship Heaven." As the dragon symbolizes the Chinese emperor, the so-called "Son of Heaven," the function of this painting is to glorify the emperor's rule, which was known as the "Mandate of Heaven" in imperial China.
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