Dragon-shaped door knocker
Door knocker with draghiform shape_ Dimensions 40 cm x 20cm x 8cm_ Material: wrought iron_ XVI century_ Production: Central Italy_ Provenance: Italian collection.
Together with the locks and the keys, the shutters are among the iron objects of greater executive complexity and in which high aesthetic levels are achieved and are differentiated by the elaboration of the ornament that could have an anthropomorphic, zoomorphic or phytomorphic background. Compared to the classical and repeated bronze versions, from the leonine protomes with the ring in the mouth appeared in the ancient world up to the spectacular masterpieces made by the Venetian iron masters, the iron piercings are less known and celebrated, but even more interesting and above all rare their absolute uniqueness, a characteristic that has allowed these small masterpieces to become part of the classic Wunderkammer outfit. In fact, they are the result of the strong imagination and the inspiration of anonymous and very skilled iron artisans, able to shape at their pleasure a material so hard and difficult to mold until obtaining, in a very limited space, real sculptures in thumbnail.
As part of the collection of objects in iron, door knockers have always played a significant role with important presences in all the most important public and private collections: among them we must mention the Le Secq des Tournelles Museum in Rouen, a section of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Civic Art Collections of the Castle Museum in Milan. Among the various American and European private collections one must absolutely mention the famous Mylius Collection, which has always been considered one of the most spectacular of its kind.
The door in question has draciform appearance and brings together in general what are the typical features of the draco described by Pliny the Elder in his work Naturalis Historia (23 – 79 AD): body of reptile, two or four small but powerful clawed paws, jaws large and powerful with a long tail capable of crushing an elephant and those typical features of the dragon of medieval iconography of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The bat’s wings, as we can see in the particular in question, constitute a typical characteristic of the dragon of western iconography that was imported from the Chinese tradition around the XII-XIII century, as we can see in the work “Serpentum et Draconum” of the naturalist , botanist and entomologist Ulisse Aldrovandi.
The known models were those of St. George and St. Michael who triumphed over different dragons in the name of all the knights who defeated the immense dimensions of collective damnation and, at the same time, favored the social ascent of the military aristocracy. The dragon is an ambiguous presence in the medieval bestiary. Enemy of God, however, is at the same time endowed with a profound wisdom, being the guardian of ancestral secrets, of ancestral potentiality and of the ability to wrap the whole cosmos in its coils. The ocean itself is represented by the ancient geographers as a huge circular snake.
If the medieval iconography represents the beast as a diabolical and thirsty animal of destruction, then, a set of tales and teratological myths of the oriental tradition related to the dragon, neutralize its so-called subversive charge. Thus, in the Letter of Priest Gianni we read of dragons led by Indian princes in wedding parties and banquets, dragons ridden by guardians with lots of bites and saddles that inspire a sort of celestial harmony.