Antique and Vintage Dragonflies

The dragonfly’s ability to move in all six directions during flight, as well as its sparkling, bejeweled tones, have inspired magical associations on all continents. Lakota mythology includes a “Whirlwind” god in the form of a dragonfly, who was worshipped for assisting the tribe in deceiving enemies. Other Native American cultures thought of the dragonfly as an omen of good health; for the Zuni people, killing a dragonfly was actually punishable. The insects were also painted onto Native American pottery or sewn into beadwork on ritual objects.

In Medieval Europe, the dragonfly was referred to as the “devil’s darning needle,” “water witch,” or “snake killer,” nicknames expressing fears of the insect's alleged connection to the supernatural world. The "devil’s needle" moniker migrated to the United States with early European settlers, and has imbued regional folklore with colorful images of the creatures sewing up profane mouths or idle fingers.

The insect became linked with triumph and courage in Japan, where one of the words for dragonfly, “shoryo,” closely resembles the word for victory, “shouri.” The animal’s shape was used in designs for samurai accessories and weaponry, and legend says that one Japanese emperor even temporarily changed the country’s name to Akitsushima, translating to “Isle of the Dragonfly.”

In the 1850s, Japan finally ended centuries of isolationism and opened its borders to trade, sparking an exciting exchange of products and ideas. The International Expositions in Paris during 1867 and 1878 further highlighted the Western world’s newfound fascination with Asian-inspired imagery. The exhibitions showcased artwork like Emile Gallé’s delicate glass vase depicting a dragonfly passing over the folds of a paper fan.

The dragonfly’s complex wing pattern lent itself perfectly to the developing Art Nouveau movement, which emphasized intricate craft design and natural motifs. As the style enveloped the applied arts, dragonflies appeared everywhere—floating in paperweights and amid porcelain patterns, dangling from earrings and pendants, and decorating vases and lamp shades.

By the turn of the century, well-established glass and jewelry designers had incorporated dragonflies into their pieces, as with Baccarat’s dragonfly-shaped cut-glass dish from 1904. The same year, French magazine “Art et Décoration” held a competition for handmade product designs featuring the dragonfly, with entries ranging from an enameled metal belt buckle to ornamental lacework.

French glass and jewelry maker René Lalique often infused his work with repeating images of dragonflies, creating an elegant natural geometry, as seen on his enameled damselfly necklace from 1905. The pendant is made from four crisscrossed dragonflies clustering around a central cabochon, with a single teardrop hanging from their tails. One of Lalique’s most incredible pieces of wearable art is a dragonfly corsage ornament from 1897, with enameled and diamond-set wings, oversized dragon claws, and a head formed from the bust of a woman...

Possibly the most famous dragonfly motif was created by artist Clara Driscoll who worked in the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Driscoll’s dragonfly lamp features a repeating pattern of dragonflies placed wingtip to wingtip on its stained glass shade, and was mounted on a variety of stamped bronze or mosaic bases. Color schemes varied according to the craftsperson assembling the piece, with minute glass pieces making up every detail in the dragonfly’s wings. The Tiffany dragonfly lamp received top recognition at its debut in the Paris International Exposition of 1900, just as the Art Nouveau style was reaching its peak.

Dragonfly imagery continued to be widely used in the decorative arts throughout the 1920s, when the transition to abstracted, sleek modernist forms of Art Deco began. However, the mysterious insects are still popular today, especially for subjects on costume jewelry, decorative art glass, and Asian-influenced pottery.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Carousel Association

National Carousel Association

Since 1973, the National Carousel Association has been dedicated to preserving and restoring carousels and carousel… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Beautiful Old Chinese Jade Carving Mounted As Pin Brooch W 14k Gold DragonflyBk 18k White Gold 1.34ctw Diamond & Pink Sapphire Cluster Dragonfly BroochVintage Jewellery Art Nouveau Plique A Jour Enamel Dragonfly Mayfly BroochVintage Plique A Jour Enamel Rhinestone Dragonfly Insect Statement Brooch PinSigned Anna Weatherley Hungary Dragonfly Butterfly Porcelain Serving Tray Mhh Grandmas Rare Enamel Jade Dragonfly Old Pawn Sterling Silver Brooch Vintage Estate:navajo/sterling/hand Stamped/dragonfly Cross/fred Harvy EraLarge Art Nouveau Dragonfly In Flowers Antique Button 1-7/8"Just Nan Limited Edition (2008) Gilded Dragonfly Scissors Purse & Fob Kit Estee Lauder Dragonfly Solid Perfume Compact Full 2003 W/ Box & BagNeo Art Glass Iridescent Purple Pink Swirl Pebble & Silver Dragonfly , K.heatonRaymarine Dragonfly 4pro Chirp Sonar/gps W/downvision And Chirp Lowest Price!Signed Anna Weatherley Hungary Dragonfly Butterfly Porcelain Teacup Saucer Mhh Audioquest Dragonfly Red With Apple AdapterLes Copains Crystal Dragonfly Butterfly Brooch Pin Saks Fifth Avenue BroachMonroe Salt Works 12.5in. Dragonfly Serving BowlJopanda Lampwork Glass Beads Handmade Sra - Spring Roses Dragonfly ButterflyMerrell Capra Mid Gore-tex Waterproof Dragonfly Hiking Walking Boots Womens 9.5Dragonfly Japanese Katana Sword (silver Damascus Blade) Free Scabbard And Bag1819.. Rare Volume..dialogues Of .entomology..insects, Butterflies, DragonfliesSwarovski Crystal Alibey Dragonfly W/stand #250481Lacrosse Stick - Dragonfly Shaft + Superpower Stx HeadVintage Orient & Flume Gold Iridescent Dragonfly Art Glass Signed # 275 1981Very Nice Estate 14k Yellow & White Gold Diamond Dragonfly Pin/pendantFossil Dragonfly Blue Leather Morgan Traveler Crossbody Purse $138 Zb4798Vintage Tiffany Style Dragonfly Torchiere Jeweled Stained Glass Lead Lamp Shade14k Yellow Gold Brooch Pin Figural Dragonfly Green Enamel Not Scrap 5.3 GramsF929:japanese Kiyomizu-ware Dragonfly Pattern Sencha Teapot Yusamashi Cups,auto64x61 Mm Amazing Opal Amethyst Diopside Emerald 925 Silver Dragonfly Big BroochSigned Anna Weatherley Hungary Dragonfly Butterfly Porcelain Teacup Saucer Mhh Vintage Stained Glass Dragonfly Bankers Tiffany Style LampVery Old Czech Cobalt Blue Glass Beads Necklace & Blue Glass Dragonfly PendantKenneth J Lane Kjl Crystal Dragonfly Pin Brooch Dragonfly Necklace 18 Inch White Gold 14k Diamonds BoxTaxco 925 Sterling Silver Tm-40 2 1/4" Dragonfly Pin Brooch 12.67gHeidi Daus "dancing Dragonfly" Crystle Bangle BraceletLularoe Os Leggings Dragonflies NwtSalt Spoon Sterling Silver ( Dragonfly )Courtney Peterson Dragonfly Sterling Silver Brass Brooch Slash Pendant, Sterling Silver Jewelry Lot Blue Stone Set Capital Pin Dragonfly EarringsAmazing Hot Rainbow Black Opal Citrine Garnet Ruby 925 Silver Dragonfly BroochVintage 9k 9ct 375 Gold Sapphire & Diamond Dragonfly Pendant9ct/9k Gold Sapphire Novelty Dragonfly Stud Earrings, 375Beaded Dragonfly Sterling Silver Earrings - Native AmericanLularoe Os Dragonfly LeggingsDetroit Art Pewabic Pottery Dragonfly Tile 4"Dragonfly - Genuine Czech Moldavite 925 Sterling Silver Pendant Jewelry Pp8837Vintage 3" Rhinestone & Pink Enamel Dragonfly Kjl For Avon Brooch Pin SignedNeo Art Glass Iridescent Purple Red Swirl Pebble & Silver Dragonfly , K.heatonPrinting Letterpress Printers Block, Lily Pad W Dragonfly, Printers Cut Wow Beautiful Dragonfly Pin / Brooch Silvertone Wow Loaded With Crystal 4 3/423 Gram Colossal Navajo Sterling Silver Dragonfly Turquoise Ring1.40ct Natural Yellow/orange Sapphire & Tourmaline Cluster "dragonfly" PinDragonfly - Multi Copper Turquoise & Peridot 925 Silver Pendant Jewelry Pp21095Kirks Folly Fairy Riding Dragonfly Pin Brooch Green Cloisonne Handmade Carved Dragonfly Statue Magnifying GlassLularoe Kids Leggings S/m Dragonflies Htf Print!!Beautiful Barse Mother Of Pearl Shell Sterling Silver Dragonfly PendantDragonfly - Copper Blue Turquoise & Blue Topaz 925 Silver Pendant Pp21061Dragonfly Scarf Lightweight