Throckmorton Fine Art (www.throckmorton-nyc.com) has assembled for exhibit one of the finest collections of jade dragons representing the art of early China. Emerging out of the northern boundaries of today’s China, the dragon eventually predominated as the mark par excellence of heavenly favor. Wearing or suspending a jade pendant in the shape of a dragon was believed to inoculate the owner with some of the dragon’s positive energy. All the objects in the exhibit are created out of nephrite stone, tremolitic-actinolitic jade. Most are designed to be suspended as décor, at either a male’s waist or female’s chest. Plump and unctuously curling C-shaped chunks of nephrite from the Hongshan culture stand out as one of the most exquisite examples, and, in addition, as the earliest representation of the dragon in China.
The exhibition will be on view at Throckmorton Fine Art, 145 East 57 Street in New York, from March 2 to April 22, 2017. In an essay for the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, DRAGON LORE IN EARLY CHINA, art scholar and author John S. Major, says, “Neolithic and Bronze Age vessels of pottery, jade, bronze, and other durable media, as well as articles of personal adornment, frequently display images of fanciful reptilian creatures that scholars groups under the capacious rubric “dragons.” While characteristically endowed with serpentine bodies (with or without legs), some examples have humanoid heads (often with horns), others have zoomorphic heads with gaping mouths and, sometimes, crests. For the early period, before the emergence of written documents, attempts to classify dragon images and understand their meaning necessarily involve an element of speculation. One can say with fair certainty, however, that these figures are not renderings of actual living creatures (such as crocodiles or pythons). Rather, they were from the beginning symbolic devices, probably best understood as visualizations of natural powers.”
Spencer Throckmorton adds that “This auspicious mythical animal with serpentine body, known under the header ‘dragon (long ?and qiu?)’ first appears during the Jade Age and continues to dominate Chinese art of all later and modern periods. Loved and admired for its mythical properties of auspiciousness and fertility, this enduring symbol of Chinese culture is best represented in the art of jade from the Late Neolithic (the Jade Age) through Han eras, from ca. 3500 BCE through the 3rd century CE.”
The positive energy of Chinese dragons is represented in a miraculous variety of sinuous forms from the Hongshan cultural period through Shang, Western and Eastern Zhou, and later Han eras. The Hongshan dragon is envisioned initially in the shape of a thick curling C-shape with large head and bulbous ears. By the Shang and Western Zhou eras, the dragon coils and snakes, represented usually in profile and often with an animal mask or feline head and a body filled with scales. Heads may turn or revert and lissome bodies may rest on paws, and tails extend in an agile and supple piece of calligraphic design. The dragon art of Eastern Zhou and Han periods climax in an extravagant display of multitudinous variations of intertwining bodies texturally distinguished by feathers, cloud scrolls, scales or granulation. The rich and lavishly represented collection of Throckmorton Fine Art promises to be enjoyable and intellectually enriching.
Highlights in the Throckmorton exhibition include a Jade Dragon and Phoenix Pendant dating to 474-221 BCE and another, of the same period, in the form of an open work plaque of a Dragon. A Han dynasty example of Jade ca. 206 BCE – 220 CE also takes the form of a plaque pendant. Still another featured work is a Jade Dragon Disc Pendant with Lattice work, from the Warring States Period, 475-221 BCE. And from the late Shang period Throckmorton is offering a Jade Dragon Blade, ca. 1800-1100 BCE almost 15 inches long.
Spencer Throckmorton says “This exhibition of Chinese Dragons will be interesting to many scholars and collectors as it casts a spotlight on the early development of this art form.
For 25 years, gallery founder Spencer Throckmorton has pursued a long held interest in Pre-Columbian art, Chinese jades, Asian sculpture and Latin American photography. Throckmorton has continually staged important exhibitions and published numerous publications on those subjects working with leading art scholars. Throckmorton Fine Art has also specialized in both vintage and contemporary photography of the Americas, with a primary focus on Latin American talents. The gallery has featured the work of Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Martin Chambi, Lucien Clergue, Ruven Afanador, Marilyn Bridges, Graciela Iturbide, Flor Garduno, Mario Algaze, Javier Silva-Meinel, Valdir Cruz, and Christian Cravo.