Temple Gallery

Established 1959

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

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VV035. Saint George and the Dragon

Circa 1700
23 x 28 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

Provenance:  Temple Gallery 1966

Private collection

Exhibited: Keele University 1966, (No. 23)

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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. The icon eliminates the other narrative elements of the legend (i.e. the rescuing of Elisaba, the daughter of the pagan king of Selena in Libya, from the dragon), and instead focuses on the main action of the warrior George pinning down his adversary - a symbol of the triumph of spiritual warfare, which is an Eastern monastic concept found in the Philokalia, but which can be traced to the New Testament epistles of St Paul. For example, the apostle encourages one to 'put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil' (Eph. 6:11). He then explicates this metaphor by applying spiritual concepts to the individual vestments of a warrior:

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God... (Eph. 6: 14-17)

This important theme that became central to monastic identity can be understood as the hidden meaning that underpins the iconography of St George and the Dragon.

Though a small piece, the style of the current version encapsulates the dramatic tension of the event. This is particularly notable in the depiction of the mountains that rise diagonally on either side of the panel, behind the main action, creating a crescendo-like energy and drama to the work. A comparable Greek icon of the same subject, though of a slightly later date, is in the collection of Demetrios Ekonomopoulos (fig. a).

Fig. a. St George and the Dragon, Greek, 18th century, collection of Demetrios Ekonomopoulos [1]

1. Published in Chrysanthi Baltoyani, Icons: The Demetrios Ekonomopoulos Collection, (Athens, Dr D. A. Delis S. A. 1986), pl. 132

Detail Images