Veneto : Saint George Slays the Dragon

Saint George Slays the Dragon

Altichiero da Zevio, Saint George Slays the Dragon; Oratorio di San Giorgio, Padua, Italy; 1379.  

Altichiero da Zevio completed the Saint George Slays the Dragon fresco, and the decoration of the entire Oratorio di San Giorgio, in 1379. It appears amidst a greater narrative concerning the life of Saint George, who was greatly revered by Bonifacio de’ Lupi, an important figure in Padua, Italy and the commissioner of this work.

Derived from accounts found in the Bible and Jacopo da Voragine’s The Golden Legend, this particular fresco depicts Saint George killing the mythical monster that tormented the city of Silena in Libya. The image of the dragon is an important component of Christian iconography as it is often used to symbolize the devil and its sinful and destructive implications. In commissioning this work, Bonifacio de’ Lupi attempts to display his and his family’s devotion to God, as well as their fidelity to the good of the city-state, during the dire circumstances of life in a plague-ridden Italy. Showing the divine defeat of a beast that simultaneously embodies evil, impiety, and disease before an idealized cityscape reinforces these ideas and seeks to secure de’ Lupi’s salvation and that of his family.