Officer in the Roman army, Saint George passed through a city plagued by a voracious dragon that devoured its inhabitants. To appease the monster’s hunger, the villagers offered him sheep, but when all the cattle were sacrificed, two young people were drawn.
One day, fate designated the king’s daughter, forced to be delivered to the dragon. Initiating a fight to save her, Saint George, on his horse, triumphed over the monster by piercing it with his spear. In order to symbolize the victory of faith over Evil, the different versions of the legend end with the death of the dragon. However, the Golden Legend, by Jacques de Voragine affirms that the creature was only wounded and that the saint would have dragged it, chained, at his side. Before leaving the city, Saint George distributed to the poor the money that the king had given him as a reward.
After his victory over the dragon, came the passion of the saint. Indeed, Saint George was martyred for refusing to sacrifice to pagan idols during the persecution of Diocletian. The saint suffered numerous physical abuses from which he miraculously survived. He was eventually beheaded and his holy body was retrieved by an angel.
This polychrome sculpture represents Saint George standing, his foot on the dragon which he strikes down with a spear. This image is one of the most evocative of the iconography of Saint George. He is represented young and beardless, in infantry armor, typically German, due to the length of the poacher who protects the thighs of the saint. The armor covers his whole body, from the neck, with the gorget, to the foot with the sabatons. The armor is realistic thanks to the precision of the parts composing it and this silver highlight which gives it a patina with metallic reflections
The saint is wearing a hood with raised brown edges, revealing curly hair down to the bottom of his neck.
The face of the saint seems serene, and his attitude controlled, a symbol of chivalrous virtues.
Concerning the posture, Saint George raises his right arm and bends the left in order to plant his spear in the mouth of the dragon. He is in contrapposto, his left foot crushing the long neck of the monster.
The dragon, on the other hand, is salamander-like with large, pointed ears and a large, jagged crest on its back. The creature opens its mouth and twists its neck in pain. A green color covers its skin, and highlights of red are located inside its mouth and ears.
This exceptional piece is the reflection of a remarkable sculptural work, due to the harmony that emerges from the composition, the precision of the details and expressions, as well as the contribution of the polychromy that animates this scene.
Louis Réau, Iconographie de l’Art Chrétien, Presses Universitaires de France, 1958