Oct 15, 2015
Oct 15, 2015

Makaras, Phoenixes and Flowers

Makaras, Phoenixes and Flowers


Lampas, silk and gold thread

Overall: 51.3 x 75.6 cm (20 3/16 x 29 3/4 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1991.5



Central Asian designers drew from a wide variety of motifs, both imaginary and real. In this silk, rows of soaring phoenixes alternate with rows of makaras. Combining a fish body and tail, wings, and a dragon's head, the makara originated in India as a water creature. With the spread of Buddhism, the motif migrated into the art of Central Asia and, from there, into the art of northern China. In Italy, exotic Central Asian patterns such as this inspired flights of imagination. One such example (seen in the photograph below) shows a creature, strikingly similar to the makara, spewing forth a dragon while a dog walks up its back.

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