St George and the Dragon

Mstera School
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reference number: RI_048

circa 1800

tempera on wooden panel

35.2 x 31.2 cm

Painted in warm earth tones the icon depicts the youthful saint riding a galloping charger. In his right hand, he holds a spear with which he transfixes the dragon beneath him. To the right, in front of a stylized tower, stands princess Elisava harnessed by a girdle attached to the dragon. Her parents stand on top of the tower and watch the development of the drama. Immediately above George’s head is a flying angel, who crowns him. In the upper left corner is appears the Saviour blessing St. George.

The story of George and the Dragon is described in The Golden Legend. According to it, the event took place in Cappadocia in the third century. The local inhabitants were pagans who worshipped a terrible dragon that lived in a lake nearby. To appease the dragon every day two lambs were sacrificed, to further please the creature humans were offered and lots were drawn to choose the victims. On one occasion the daughter of the local ruler drew the unlucky lot. As it happened St. George promised to kill the dragon provided that the citizenry of the city become Christians. He engaged the dragon in mortal combat and slew it. The king and all of his people were so awed by the power of the Lord that they converted to Christianity.
St. George killing the dragon is one of the most popular subject matters of Christian art. In Russia, the first depiction of the miracle is preserved on the walls of the church of St George in Staraya Ladoga (circa 1167) near Novgorod.
St. George is a patron saint of Cappadocia, Georgia, Muscovy and also England where his cult was introduced by Crusaders returning from Palestine. His principal feast day is April 23rd.


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