Explore a unique collection of vintage dragon illustrations that bring to life the rich history and diverse interpretations of dragons in art. Perfect for enthusiasts and collectors alike!
These mythical creatures have captured the human imagination for centuries. From the brooding skies of Europe to the vibrant landscapes of China and Japan, dragons have held a special place in our hearts and stories.
And guess what? The next Lunar New Year marks the auspicious Year of the Dragon, adding extra excitement to the exploration of this legendary creature!
Styles of Dragons
Dragons are seen differently worldwide, and what they represent varies based on where you are. The way people imagine a fantasy dragon and what they stand for changes from one region to another, as explained below.
European Dragons: Guardians of Treasures and Tales
Western-style dragons are usually depicted as large, fire-breathing creatures with wings, resembling giant lizards or serpents. They’re often the bad guys in fairy tales, keeping watch over huge treasures or princesses.
A famous example is Saint George fighting the dragon, showing bravery and winning against tough challenges. These dragons have wings like bats and can breathe fire. They’re not just scary; they also stand for power, strength, and mysterious things we don’t understand.
Eastern Dragons: Symbols of Wisdom and Prosperity
As we journey eastward, the image of the dragon undergoes a remarkable transformation. In Chinese culture, the dragon is revered as a symbol of wisdom, power, and good fortune.
Unlike their European counterparts, Chinese dragons are serpentine and often without wings, seen as benevolent beings controlling water, rainfall, and floods. These dragons are deeply woven into the fabric of Chinese culture, celebrated in festivals and art.
Similarly, in Japanese folklore, dragons are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water. The Japanese dragon, or ‘Ryū’, is often seen as a protector and benefactor. These elegant, slender dragons bring to mind the delicate balance of nature and the respect for the elements prevalent in Japanese culture.
The Year of the Dragon: A Special Time
In the Chinese Zodiac, each year is linked to an animal, and the Dragon is one of them. People think the Dragon Year is auspicious. It’s a time for being brave and chasing your dreams. This year, there are many fun celebrations with dragon dances and fireworks. It’s all about good luck and being happy.
Download Free Vintage Dragon Pictures
Did you know you can easily download these stunning free pictures? It’s simple – click on the title above each dragon illustration. Doing so will open high-quality images in a new tab. From there, you can print the free images out or save them for later use.
The best part? All these high quality images are in the Public Domain, which means you’re free to use them however you want, even for commercial use.
So, whether you’re a fan of dragon art, a creative looking for inspiration, or need something unique for a project, these illustrations are available for you to use without any restrictions. Enjoy exploring and using these timeless dragon depictions!
European Vintage Dragon Pictures
This free download is from the collection at Houghton Library, Harvard University. “Dragon holding a goose” (with St. George in the background). Designs for the theatre, ca. 1850, by Richard Wynne Keene.
A cartoon of dragon fire with a political message from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection by Thomas Rowlandson 1811.
The “Roundel with Daniel Slaying the Dragon” from 1520 is a South Netherlandish stained glass work. This piece combines religious storytelling with the exquisite craftsmanship typical of the early 16th century. The roundel depicts the biblical scene of Daniel killing the dragon
The “Augsburger Wunderzeichenbuch,” including Folio 127 titled “Drachen über Böhmen” (Dragons over Bohemia), is a 16th-century manuscript illustrating various natural and supernatural phenomena. This folio depicts dragons, a common theme in these Renaissance wonder books that blend art, folklore, and early scientific observation.
More vintage dragon pictures from the Harvard Theater Collection. St. George and ye Dragons”. Designs for the theatre, ca. 1850, by Richard Wynne Keene (1809-1887)
Friedrich Johann Justin Bertuch, the mythical creature dragon 1806.
Dragon drawing from an album with reptiles, amphibians, and natural historical ensembles in the collection at the Rijksmuseum, Netherlands.
“Goldsmith’s Bouquet Sprouting from the Mouth of a Dragon” by Balthasar Le Mersier 1626.
This picture with the sprouting flowers could be easily be transformed into a fun dragon coloring sheets.
Another vintage dragon painting from the Rijksmuseum by Johan Braakensiek, 1868 – 1940.
Artist unknown from Belgium 1830.
Vintage Japanese Dragon Illustrations
Two Dragons” by Utagawa Yoshitsuya, created between 1843-1847, is a Japanese woodblock print featuring dragons, a common motif in Japanese mythology symbolizing strength and wisdom.
The Dragon, c. 1860. The print depicts the Buddha riding on the back of a giant sea-dragon. From the series Modern Illustrations of Buddhist Precepts (Hasso-ki Imayo Utsushi-e).
Another Kunisada woodblock print. Tamatora has recovered the pearl from the palace on the Dragon king, while she was threatened by all sea creatures.
Ukiyo-e print from Ogata Gekko‘s Views of Mt. Fuji. A dragon rises out of smoke near Mt. Fuji, ascending towards the sky.
In the lunar calendar the tiger proceeds the dragon.
Ryugu Tamatori Hime no su-Recovering the Stolen Jewel from the Palace of the Dragon King by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
A close up picture of the dragon above.
A Japanese inspired tattoo of a snake and dragon from the Metropolitan Museum.
Vintage Chinese Dragon Illustrations
This colourful dragon image is not actually from China but from one of its neighbours, Tibet. It’s from the Field Museum Chicago.
This is a silk tapestry from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and is in the Met Museum.
On the Pictureboxblue, you’ll find similar colours and designs in this collection of Traditional Chinese Patterns.
From about 1900, dragon design, possibly for a book jacket. This would be perfect for the addition of free printable dragon colouring pages.
“A fisherboy dived into the water and brought up a pearl from beneath the chin of a black dragon.” 1921 Chinese Fairy Book (Richard Wilhelm).
This is a Japanese woodblock print of a Chinese dragon from 1825.
This illustration includes a cute flying European dragon and a Chinese serpent type dragon. It is from the book “The Land of Long Ago”, by Elsa Beskow.
Print 25: Needle Work Dragon
This beautiful dragon is from a needlework book “Fancy Work for Pleasure and Profit” (1905).
Other Picture Posts
Dragons have different meanings in different cultures. They show us what different people value, fear, and hope for. As we get ready for the Year of the Dragon, let’s think about all these different dragon stories and what they mean. Dragons can be scary guards or kind protectors. They always make us think and help us feel connected to old stories and traditions.
If you liked these mythical creatures then check out my post on Scandinavian Fairytales.
If you fancy, you can Buy Me A Coffee Here.