San Giorgio e il Drago

Jacopo Robusti

The National Gallery

Saint George is shown about to defeat the dragon, by the edge of the sea. The treatment of the subject is unusual: the figure of the fleeing princess is dominant, and in the centre lies a corpse which the dragon was about to eat. The figure of God the Father blessing the saint appears in the sky. The visual narrative reads back from the princess. The blue and rose colours are picked up in the draperies of the corpse and Saint George, and in the pink and blue tints of the cloudscape.

The shoreline leads the eye back into the picture space, while the V-shape formed by the leaning tree-trunk and the princess acts to anchor the composition. The high horizon and viewpoint help create tension and drama in the picture.

The small size of the canvas suggests it was painted for a domestic setting, for devotional use. It was first recorded in 1648 in the Palazzo Correr in Venice, although we do not know whether it was made for the Correr family. The 'Golden Legend' relates that Saint George was a knight from Cappadocia (in modern Turkey), who rescued a maiden from a dragon at Silene, in Libya, a deed of Christian courage, which caused many to be converted. Later he was martyred as a result of the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian.