Saint George on horseback as dragon-slayer

Saint George, mounted on an off-white horse with red tail, is poised to thrust his spear, held in both hands, into the winged dragon lying supine on the ground with its tail passed between the steed’s hind legs. The saint wears a greenish short tunic, a gold breastplate decorated with two angels holding a cross, and a red cape that billows high up behind his back. The sturdy and exuberant horse has red trappings and rears, ready to trample the dragon, whilst simultaneously turning its head so that it is seen in left profile.

Depicted on the right is a tower of isodomic masonry, from the crenellations of which hangs a carpet. King Selbios stands on the roof, with his retinue of soldiers and trumpeters, watching the scene. On the left, in miniature, a princess flees in terror towards the walled city with the Renaissance gateway, circular towers and high campanile built on top of a knoll. In the top right corner of the icon, the hand of God appears from the dark sky, blessing the saint.

The under layer on the saint’s face and the flesh is dark, while the dark shadows on his eyelids, together with the knitted forehead, heighten the impulsiveness of his movement. The modelling of the horse is soft.

The iconographic type of Saint George on horseback was created by Cretan painters in the fifteenth century, principal representative of which was Angelos, who crystallized the type that was repeated in various versions throughout the Post-Byzantine period (Gates of Mystery 1994, 225, no. 46 – M. Vassilaki). Michael Damaskenos proceeded to the reworking of the subject with the addition of many elements from Western art (Vocotopoulos 1990, figs 29-30). In the icon in the Canellopoulos museum there is an apparent distancing from the established Byzantine models, while conspicuous are the iconographic traits (movement of the horse, trappings, attire of the saint and of secondary figures, rendering of the city) that attest the influence of Western art and specifically Italian.