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Saint George taming then slaying a dragon is one of the most fantastic saints‘ legends of the Middle Ages. Uccello has compressed two parts of the story into one small and strange picture. The saint plunges his spear into the head of a dragon, whose odd shape mirrors the entrance to his cave. An elegant, if bored-looking, princess already has a leash around its neck. We don’t know who this painting was for, but its small scale and non-religious feel – it’s more about a magical adventure than Christian virtue – suggest it was intended for someone’s home. It was relatively cheap to make: it’s in oil on canvas and contains no expensive pigments or gilding. Uccello was fascinated by single point perspective – using lines that lead to one point to create an illusion of depth within a painting – but he hasn’t quite mastered it here.
Saint George and the Dragon
Oil on canvas
H 55.6 x W 74.2 cm
Bought with a special grant and other contributions, 1959