Why did Raphael Paint George and The Dragon?

raphael saint george and the dragon

To commemorate Saint George’s Day on April 23rd, I thought I’d take a look at one of the most famous George and the Dragon paintings. Raphael’s St. George and the Dragon.  Saint George’s day remembers Saint George, England’s patron saint.  George died on April 23rd and the anniversary of his death, is seen as England’s national day. However, Saint George’s day is unfortunately not a bank holiday here in England and actually not many people would be able to tell you much about him.

Who was Saint George then?

George (if he had existed) would have been a soldier in the Roman Empire. Under Emperor Diocletian he was martyred for his faith in the fourth century. Legend has it, that in a small town in Libya, there was a lake that was inhabited by a dragon who was infected with the plague. The dragon of course kept killing people, so to appease it the villagers would offer up two sheep a day to the dragon.  When the sheep had run out, the king devised a lottery system where local children were then offered up to the dragon.  Legend states that when the king’s own daughter was picked out of the lottery, Saint George happened to be riding past and offered to slay the dragon if the town converted to Christianity. They did and the King later built a church on the place where the dragon was slain.

Why did Raphael Paint George and The Dragon?

raphael saint george and the dragon

Raphael’s St. George and the Dragon is actually a very small miniature painting housed in The National gallery of Art in Washington.


In answer to the question: Why did Raphael paint Saint George and the dragon? The answer is Raphael painted St George and the Dragon as he was commissioned to do so. Raphael’s patron was Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino and he presumably commissioned Raphael to paint Saint George and the Dragon for a few reasons.

When you look at the painting, St. George wears the blue garter of the English Order of the Garter. This award was given to Raphael’s patron Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, by King Henry VII of England. Therefore, we think that Raphael was asked to paint the Saint George and the Dragon painting for the English emissary who brought the regalia to Urbino.

The subject matter chivalry and Christianity, is also appropriate for the occasion.

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Bye for now!

Anna X

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