The

Temple Gallery

Established 1959

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

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VV020. St George and the Dragon

Melkite
Circa 1800
25 x 19.8 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

£1,100Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

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This icon portrays the legend of 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 white charger. With a steadfast movement he thrusts his spear through the mouth of the Dragon. On the right we see Elisaba standing in the doorway of a medieval tower, pleading to be saved. Western style cherubs hover among clouds on either side of the panel, watching the event. On the back of the horse in our version is the Christian youth from Mytilene who George has rescued, the son of a rich man called Bifan.[1] The boy had been kidnapped and made to work as a slave in the household of a Saracen infidel in Crete. This element is from the Greek text of the miracles of St George.[2]

Our example is a Melkite icon - a very rare type of icon created in the Byzantine tradition of the Middle East. The word comes from the Syriac word malkoyo (ܡܠܟܝܐ‎), and the Arabic word Malakī (Arabic: ملكي‎, meaning "royal", and by extension, "imperial"). When used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers specifically to the Eastern Rite Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch. Melkites view themselves as the first Christian community, dating the Melkite Church back to the time of the Apostles. This first community is said to have been a mixed one made up of individuals who were originally Greek, Roman, Syriac, and Jewish. After the Islamic conquests of the Levant in the 7th century, the Melkite community started incorporating Arabic language in the liturgical traditions as the Middle East became gradually Arabized. Our version of St George can be compared to another 19th century Melkite version from the collection of Abou Adal (see fig. a). As we can see, the iconography and the style of George's face is very similar.


Fig. a. St George and the Dragon, Melkite, 19th century, Collection of Abou Adal, Paris




Footnotes:-
1. Marilyn Heldman, The Marian Icons of the Painter Fre Seyon, (Harrassowitz, 1994), p.177
2. http://www.britishmuseum.org/..../objectId=60412&partId=1

Detail Images