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The Eclipse Dragon on an Arabic Frontispiece-Miniature
G. Azarpay and A. D. Kilmer
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 98, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1978), pp. 363-374
Published by: American Oriental Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/599748
Page Count: 12
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A lunar emblem framed by a pair of entwined dragons is repeated twice on the double frontispiece-miniatures of the Arabic Pseudo-Galen manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, MS arabe 2964, in Paris. Bishr Farès who discovered the manuscript argued for a relationship between the subject matter of these frontispiece-miniatures and the content of the text of the manuscript which dealt with the effects and treatment of snakebite. The present paper intends to demonstrate the astrological meaning of the theme of the Paris Pseudo-Galen frontispiece-miniatures which gains significance from the juxtaposition of the entwined dragons and the lunar emblem. The motif of the entwined dragons in these miniatures is here explained as a reference to the pseudoplanetary nodes of the moon's orbit, the Arabic al-Djawzahr, which were regarded as the Head and Tail of a giant Dragon. The astronomical importance of the jawzahr lay in its role in effecting solar and lunar eclipses which were attributed to the occurrence of a conjunction of the sun or moon in or near the lunar nodes. It is unlikely that the artist of the paris Pseudo-Galen miniatures attempted to establish a connection between the eclipse phenomenon and the content of the manuscript. However, the correspondence between the date of the completion of the manuscript and the occurrence of a solar eclipse on January 28, A. D. 1199, would appear to indicate the astrological significance of the eclipse for the completion of the work.
Journal of the American Oriental Society © 1978 American Oriental Society