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Paolo Uccello, Saint George and the Dragon

Key facts
Full title Saint George and the Dragon
Artist Paolo Uccello
Artist dates about 1397 - 1475
Date made about 1470
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 55.6 × 74.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a special grant and other contributions, 1959
Inventory number NG6294
Location Gallery D
Collection Main Collection
Saint George and the Dragon
Paolo Uccello

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. The geometric patches of greenery recede towards the horizon, but the rectangular stones of the ground slope up to the right.

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