Admission is always free Directions

Open today: 10:00 to 5:00


English sculptors in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries made extensive use of alabaster, a stone readily available in the British Isles, which they enlivened with polychromy. Much religious sculpture was destroyed in England and elsewhere in iconoclastic attacks that accompanied the Protestant Reformation. This statuary group, fully carved both in front and back, is therefore a great rarity. Its survival no doubt owes much to the fact that it was preserved, from an unknown early date until after 1880, at the Dominican convent of San Juan at Quejana in the province of Alava, Spain.

The sculptor has designed a saint who seems to tower over his elegantly curving horse as he plunges a lance (now mostly destroyed) into the resisting dragon. These figures are united in a wonderfully compact composition, with a graceful silhouette that survives in spite of important losses like the head of the rescued princess, who holds the dragon by a leash made from her belt. Noteworthy is the sculptor's decision to carve the figures with large, smooth surfaces, leaving the textures of chain mail, horse hair on the mane, and scales on the dragon to be applied in paint.


Church of the Dominican convent of San Juan, Quejana (province of Alava, Spain), before c. 1730; tomb chapel of the Ayala family (tower chapel of La Virgen del Cabello), convent of San Juan, Quejana, c. 1730-after 1880.[1] Benoit Oppenheim [1842-1931], Berlin, before 1911-1920 or after;[2] Lionel Harris [d. 1943], Spanish Art Gallery, London, in or before 1925.[3] (Goldschmidt Galleries, New York);[4] sold 1925 to Otto H. Kahn [1867-1934], New York;[5] Mrs. Otto H. Kahn [d. 1949], New York;[6] Mogmar Art Foundation, New York, by 1940;[7] (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris), by 1942;[8] purchased 1944 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[9] gift 1953 to NGA.

Exhibition History
Arts of the Middle Ages 1000-1400: a Loan Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1940, no. 192, pl. LVIII, as Franco-Spanish, c. 1400.
On loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1945-1953.
Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. A-151.
Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2003-2004, no. 84, repro.
Becerro de Bengoa, Ricardo. "Descripciones de Alava." c. 1880, Partially published as "Panteon del Canciller Con Pero López de Ayala en Quenjana (Alava)," BSEE 24 (1916): 166; also in Revista Ateneo (Victoria), (1918): 7.
Oppenheim, Benoit. Originalwerke in Holz, Stein, Elfenbein usw. aus der Sammlung Benoit Oppenheim, Berlin. Supplementary vol. Leipzig, 1911: no. 136, pl. 79.
Lüthgen, Eugen. Die Abendländische Kunst des 15. Jahrhunderts. Bonn, 1920: 51-52.
"St. George and the Dragon, English School." Photo caption in Art News 24 (December 1925): 8, repro.
Nelson, Philip. "Some Undescribed English Alabaster Carvings." Archeological Journal 83 (1926): 44-45, pl. IX, c. 1370.
Hildburgh, W. L. "Further Notes on English Alabaster Carvings." The Antiquaries Journal 10 (1930): 37 n. 8.
Tavendar, Augusta S. "An English St. George in America." Parnassus 3 (October 1931): 28-29.
Frankfurter, Alfred M. "A Tribute to Otto M. Kahn as Art Collector." Art News 32 (April 1934): 10.
Swarzenski, Georg. "The Arts of the Middle Ages." Art News 38 (February 1940): color repro., cover.
Douglas, R. Langton. Review of Charles Rufus Morey, Medieval Art. In Art in America 31 (October 1943): 204.
Hildburgh, W. L. "Some Presumably Datable Fragments of an English Alabaster Retable and Some Assembled Notes on English Alabaster Carvings in Spain." The Antiquaries Journal 24 (1944): 37.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 174, repro., as English 15th Century.
Douglas, Robert Langton. "Recent Additions to the Kress Collection." The Burlington Magazine 88 (1946): 85.
Frankfurter, Alfred M. Supplement to the Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1946: 9, repro.
"Princely Gifts to the Washington Gallery: Sculpture from the Kress Collection." Illustrated London News 9 February 1946: 161, repro., as Nottingham, early fifteenth century.
Swarzenski, Hanns. "Washington: Neuerwerbungen der Skulpturen Abteilung der National Gallery of Art." Phoebus 2 (1948): 39.
Seymour, Charles. Masterpieces of Sculpture from the National Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1949: 11, 172, note 5, repro. 34-36.
Tavendar, Augusta S. "Three Medieval English Alabasters in French Churches." Speculum 24 (1949): 397-406, pl. III.
Stone, Lawrence. Sculpture in Britain; the Middle Ages. Baltimore and Harmondsworth, 1955: 191, pl. 148A.
Tavendar, Augusta S. "Medieval English Alabasters in American Museums." Speculum 30 (1955): 65.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 383, repro., as English School, early XV Century.
Gettens, Rutherford J. "Minerals in Art and Archeology." Smithsonian Report 1961 Washington, 1962: 553, pl. 1, fig. 2.
Pitman, Clement F. "Speculations on Fourteenth-Century English Alabaster Work." The Connoisseur 155 (February 1964): 89.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 154.
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 136, repro.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 619, 621, fig. 949.
Middeldorf, Ulrich. Sculptures from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools XIV-XIX Century. London, 1976: 118-119, fig. 200.
Pope-Hennessy, John. "A Quota of Masterpieces." Apollo 104 (1976): 72.
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 27, pl. 7.
Sutton, Denys. "Robert Langton Douglas. Part IV." Apollo 110 (July 1979): 51 [243], 52 [244] fig. 16.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 621, no. 956, repro., as English 14th Century.
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 281, repro.
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 80, repro.
Franco Mata, Angela. El retablo Gótico de Cartagena y los alabastros ingleses en España. Cajamurcia, 1999: 77, 108 fig. 120, 124, 133 n. 159.
Fenton, James. "The Last English Style." The New York Review of Books 50, no. 20 (December 18, 2003): 83.
Exposición Canciller Ayala. Exh. cat. Catedral Nueva Maria Immaculada. Vitoria-Gastieiz, 2007: 96-98, 120, repros. 96 and 119 (detail).