Temple Gallery

Established 1959

St George and the Dragon - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

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UU021. St George and the Dragon

Russian, popular style
19th century
35.3 x 29.8 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

Provenance:  Collection George Costakis, which included a small number of Russian icons. This icon was inherited by his grandson from whom it was acquired by the Temple Gallery. (Accompanied by a certified export permit from the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture and the Directorate General of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage.)

£4,000 [Sold]Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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George Costakis (1913 - 1990) was a collector of Russian art whose collection became the most representative body of Modern Russian avant-garde art anywhere in the world. In the years surrounding the 1917 revolution, artists in Russia produced the first non-figurative art, which was to become the defining art of the 20th century. Costakis by chance discovered some constructivist paintings in a Moscow studio in 1946, and he went on to search for the revolutionary art which might otherwise have been lost to the world. He became Head of Personnel for the Canadian Embassy. In the 1960s the apartment of George Costakis in Moscow had become a meeting place for international art collectors and art lovers in general: Russia's unofficial Museum of Modern Art. The 'détente' period following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 opened up Russia once again to international cultural exchanges the first of which was the showing of the Costakis Collection in Düsseldorf in 1977. The same year Costakis, with his family, left the Soviet Union and moved to Greece, but there was an agreement that he should leave 50 per cent of his collection in the State Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow. In 1997 the Greek State bought the remaining 1275 works. They are now a part of the permanent collection of the State Museum of Contemporary Art, in Thessaloniki, Greece. ( An account of a visit to the collection in Costaki’s Moscow apartmemt in is in Henry E. Catto, Jr Ambassadors at Sea: The High and Low Adventures of a Diplomat p. 11.

One of the most popular iconographies, this icon portrays the legend of the warrior Saint George who saved Elisaba, the daughter of the pagan king of Selena in Libya. She had been chosen by lot as the ransom demanded by the Dragon who was blocking the town’s water supply. Saint George is dressed in armour and mounted on a charger. With a steadfast movement he thrusts his spear through the mouth of the Dragon. On the right we see Elisaba who, after taming the Dragon, led him peacefully through the city streets. Above the scene in the left-corner of the panel, is a miniature image of Christ in a celestial cloud.

The painter aided by his natural instincts as an artist and even more so by his tradition, perfectly renders the higher meaning. Horse, rider, dragon and, above them, the Deity represent stages of descending spiritual energies penetrating the lower world of matter. There is no hatred or violence for the event reflects the world of prayer and contemplation.

Detail Images