The Dragon Tree in the Age of Exploration


Leá Norcross

Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Art and Art History

First Advisor

M.E. Warlick

Second Advisor

Scott Montgomery


Trees in art, Engraving


The dragon tree, a peculiar species native to Socotra, southwest Arabia, east Africa, Morocco, Macaronesia, and the Canary islands, possesses an intriguing iconographic history. The first wave of images date from 1470 to 1550, beginning with Martin Schongauer’s 1470 engraving of The Flight into Egypt. These depictions portray the dragon tree in the context of a handful of biblical themes and with apparent symbolic import. After 1550, religious images of the dragon tree vanish abruptly and are replaced by representations of an empirical nature. Dragon tree iconography is notable for the extent to which it did and did not leave an impression on European art. In this paper I examine the inability of dragon tree images to gain the momentum required to propel them into European iconography more permanently, and the forces that may account for the abrupt change from biblical to botanical renderings.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.

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