Saturday, February 6, 2010

Edward Burne-Jones - Study for St. George

signed with initials l.r.: E. B. J. ; inscribed and signed on an old label attached to the backboard: Study for painting of/ St George/ E. Burne-Jones

black and white chalks on red paper
12 by 6 1/2 in.

The story of St George is perhaps the most famous legend of chivalry, telling the tale of how the early Christian hero liberated a beautiful maiden from the claws of a fearsome dragon. According to tradition the town of Selene in Libya was terrorised by a blood-thirsty dragon which demanded the flesh of the townspeople's children. When the time came for the King's own daughter, Sabra to be led to her doom she was saved by a valiant knight named George who later married the grateful damsel. Later interpretations of the legend state that George and Sabra later moved to England where they made their home in the area which is now called Coventry.

The present drawing is a study for Burne-Jones' third version of a single figure depiction of St George painted in 1897 (Collection Hessische Hausstiftung, Kronberg) and exhibited as one of his last exhibits at the New Gallery in the winter of 1898. Burne-Jones painted two earlier versions, in 1873-1877 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford) and in 1892 (untraced, formerly in the collection of George Howard, Earl of Carlisle). In all three versions the depiction of St George is treated in symbolic rather than narrative terms, his figure standing impassive and monolithic over the coils of the slain monster like a personification of valour or the embodiment of Good over Evil.

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