An Illuminated Manuscript

Early Gothic Psalter Hour

"The Dragon Leaf"

Recto Verso

Psalter Hour Leaf

Country of Origin : France (Amiens?)
Time Period : c.1240.
size : 155*115mm. 14 lines of text written in Latin and French on vellum.
Texts in dark brown Gothic scripts, with red rubrics.
A dragon with charactersitics of "Occasio" is dancing on the Recto margin.
Ten line-extenders in burnishced gold, blue, orange, pink and white.



The dragon has wings, the balls under the feet, and a female face with long front hair -- the characteristics of "Occasio". A very rare species, to say the least.

"Occasio" is an allegory of "good oppotunity" or "chance", often depicted as a winged goddess riding on the ball or wheel with long front hair. The balls are the symbol of ever-changing unstability: wings mean she might fly away at any time. You have to catch her by the front hair i.e. when she comes to you.

"Occasio" has been often confused with "Fortuna" the blind goddess. We see some examples of "Occasio" below. The left woodcut is from Alciati's Emblemata (1531), right being Bellini (c1430-1507).

Alciati Bellini

Bellini's Occasio has a lot in common with our Dragon.

I have to admit I have no idea why the unknown illuminator of 13th century depicted the Dragon as Occasional. All I can suggest is that the constellation Draco perhaps has to do something with this.