Saints played a prominent role in medieval Christian devotional practice. The faithful regarded them as protectors, and they petitioned them for all kinds of assistance. The story of Saint George and the Dragon inspired countless pieces of art during the Middle Ages and on through the present day. The Belles Heures, an illuminated manuscript by the Limbourg brothers which we studied yesterday, contains 35 suffrages (texts recited in honor of a particular saint), each illustrated with its own miniature. This is the miniature for St. George and the Dragon.
The chivalric ideals of the later Middle Ages are embodied in the beloved story in which Saint George, the patron of knighthood, saves a princess from a dragon. The Limbourgs rendered the anatomy and movement of George’s horse with great fidelity, while the depiction of the wholly imaginary dragon betrays less precision. A few questions that Max and considered while gazing at this painting:
How do the Limbourgs show that Saint George is a saint or a holy man?
What does the castle in the background suggest?
What does the mark on St. George’s shield represent? Why did the Limbourgs include it?
What does the dragon resemble?
What can we conclude about dragons in the Middle Ages from this piece?
In 1470, an Italian artist named Paolo Uccello revealed his exquisite Saint George and the Dragon. Uccello had a special interest in mathematical perspective, and they way in which he uses perspective in this painting creates a strange, magical scene. Notice how he contrasts the patterns of curved shapes on the right of the painting with the pointed shapes on the left. I’d be curious to see if your little people notice that Uccello seems to have left off two of the dragon’s feet- unless, of course, he was depicting a dinosaur.
Point to round and spiky details. Observe the contrast.
How does Uccello use red and white colors to link the princess and George?
What is unusual about Uccello’s dragon?
How does Ucello’s dragon compare to that of the Limbourg brothers?
What kind of creature does Uccello’s dragon resemble?
How does the princess look in this painting? What is she doing?
How does the princess’ role differ in the two paintings?
Chase those butterflies where they lead you
The Legend of Saint George, abstracted from The Golden Legend text
Mar Jiryis and the Dragon, a Palestianian version of the legend
The Legend of St. George, as recorded by S. Baring Gould
The legend as told in Baden
St. George Killing the Dragon by Bernat Martorell, c. 1434-1435 (PDF)
St. George and the Dragon by Raphael
St. George and the Uffington White Horse as told in England
“The Birth of Saint George”, a ballade collected by Thomas Percy
“St George and the Dragon”, a ballad collected by Thomas Percy
Elizabeth Kostova fictionalizes St. George as the killer of Vlad Tepes
Saint George protecting the sheep
Explore dragon anatomy with online interactive from Animal Planet
St. George’s Day coloring pages
St. George and the Dragon Teacher’s Notes for Paolo Uccello’s painting (PDF)
Follow the Piper’s opinion on the legend
St. George and the Dragon Free Unit Study from Homeschool Share