Transcriptions: Writing

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'Transcriptions: Writing' is a project inviting MA Creative Writing students from Birkbeck, University of London, to write a short fiction response to a National Gallery painting.

Uccello: 'Saint George and the Dragon'

Matthew Wright

Paolo Uccello, Saint George and the Dragon
Paolo Uccello: Saint George and the Dragon, about 1470 

Have you ever seen a dramatic scene rendered so statically? The princess starts well with her sexy red shoes, but her face seems to say ‘We’re not interested in double glazing, thank you,’ and her dainty lead looks better suited to a toy dachshund than a char-grilling dragon. Saint George has a cute baby face, topped with a baby’s bonnet and ear muffs. Even so, the dragon, with legs splayed like a new-fledged turkey and a trickling nosebleed, doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat.

Uccello is famous for his exact perspective. You can almost see the lines disappearing into the vanishing point. And another kind of perspective is suggested here. There’s something solid and substantial about the slabs of colour in the background which contrasts with the frivolity and absurdity of the characters. ‘Grow up and do something useful, George!’ Uccello seems to be saying.