Italian, 1483 - 1520
Saint George and the Dragon, c. 1506
oil on panel
overall: 28.5 x 21.5 cm (11 1/4 x 8 7/16 in.) framed: 53.3 x 47.6 x 8.3 cm (21 x 18 3/4 x 3 1/4 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Object 3 of 7
This panel—one of the best-known images of Saint George—was meant to be seen at close range. Its highly detailed and precise setting is reminiscent of the Netherlandish paintings then popular with Italian patrons. It appears, in fact, that Raphael may have copied some landscape motifs from Hans Memling's Saint Veronica.
Other elements of Raphael's painting were inspired by Leonardo's cartoon for the fresco of The Battle of Anghiari, a work that Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574), author of Lives of the Painters, said first drew the younger artist to Florence. The rearing horse and the rider's fluttering cape can be traced through Raphael's own drawings of Leonardo's influential design. Raphael used the diagonal thrust of the saint's lance to organize and energize the entire composition with a tightly knit, dynamic naturalism.
George was patron saint of England and of the English Order of the Garter. The ribbon tied around his calf reads honi, opening of the order's slogan Honi soit qui mal y pense (disgraced be he who thinks evil of it). It was once thought that the duke of Urbino had commissioned Raphael to paint this as a gift for King Henry VII of England after the duke was inducted into the English knightly order. It now seems more likely that it was intended for the king's envoy instead. In either case, the commission signals Raphael's growing prestige.
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