Aug. 7 Art Minute: Saint George and the Dragon

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France, Saint George and the Dragon. Oil and wood panel, about 1480–90. 19 1/2 inches by 14 1/4 inches. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1943.30. Gallery 16

France, Saint George and the Dragon. Oil and wood panel, about 1480–90. 19 1/2 inches by 14 1/4 inches. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1943.30. Gallery 16

A knight in shining armor! The hero of this painting is Saint George, a mythical Christian once believed to have lived in the ancient Roman Empire. A warrior saint, his legend was popular in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance because of his defense of the Christian faith and of the weak or helpless. His most famous deed was rescuing a maiden from a dragon. The beast had besieged a pagan city, each day devouring a youth in return for not destroying the entire town. Saint George arrived at the desperate city just as the king’s daughter, selected by lot as the next victim, headed to her death. Rushing in at the last moment, George made the sign of the cross, killed the dragon, and saved the city. Awed by the saint’s prowess and faith, the townspeople converted to Christianity. Fifteenth-century viewers would have known the religious aspect of the story, but probably enjoyed the artist’s emphasis on the exciting adventures of a gallant knight.


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