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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 that 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. An angel hovers above George and is about to place the crown on his head. On the right we see Elisaba who, after taming the Dragon, led him peacefully through the city streets. Above Elisaba we see her parents, the King and Queen, looking out from the windows of the royal palace.
On either side saints, depicted on the borders, gaze at the main scene. The inscriptions above these figures tell us that they are: an apostle, St John the Forerunner (on the left); and St Paul the Bishop and St Martha (on the right).
Above the central image is a miniature depiction of the 'mandylion' iconography - which shows Christ's head on the veil which was sent to King Abgar of Edessa (see detail below).
The angel crowning George (see detail below) is most probably a reference to the concept of spiritual warfare [for more information on this, see cat. VV035 in this exhibition], and more specifically to the reward of spiritual victory as we find, for example, in St Nicodemus: 'If you stand courageously to fight the unseen warfare against your senses and the enemy and in fighting you win, know that the angels will assist you and will crown you victor.' Nicodemus also quotes St Isidore in another relevant text: 'Angels will assist you after battle and will crown you with victory.'
The style of the current version is typical of 19th century icon painting that was created in workshops across Russia during this period.