John Mcewen com­ments on Saint Ge­orge and the Dragon

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting David Cannadine -

RAphael (Santi) was born in Urbino, son of Gio­vanni Santi, a court painter to Fred­erico da Mon­telfel­tro, Duke of Urbino. Urbino, un­der Duke Fred­erico, be­came a cen­tre of hu­man­ist schol­ar­ship and artis­tic ex­cel­lence. Raphael was fa­mil­iar with this world when or­phaned at 11. he en­tered the work­shop of the Um­brian mas­ter pi­etro pe­rug­ino and is re­ferred to as a mas­ter him­self by 1500, the ear­li­est men­tion of him, wit­ness to his renown as a prodigy. With Leonardo and Michelan­gelo, he formed the artis­tic trium- vi­rate of the high Re­nais­sance, a stylis­tic pe­riod that barely sur­vived his pre­ma­ture and much lamented death.

This por­ta­ble paint­ing on wood was com­mis­sioned by Duke Fred­erico’s suc­ces­sor and Raphael’s pa­tron, Guidobaldo da Mon­telfel­tro, as a gift for the emis­sary, Sir Gil­bert Tal­bot, to present to henry VII of eng­land, who had made Guidobaldo a mem­ber of the english Or­der of the Garter. St Ge­orge is the or­der’s pa­tron saint. Raphael dis­played the garter on the saint’s leg. It is iden­ti­fi­able by ‘HONI’, first word of its motto ( Honi soit qui mal y pense— Dis­graced be he who thinks ill of it). Like his fa­ther, Guidobaldo was a con­dot­tiero or war­lord. henry’s gift was to sa­lute the Duke’s cul­tural and mil­i­tary sta­tus rather than to thank him for a spe­cific favour.

The pic­ture was sold dur­ing the Com­mon­wealth in one of the sales of the Royal Col­lec­tion. Cather­ine the Great sub­se­quently bought it and, un­til its sale by the Sovi­ets to the Amer­i­can col­lec­tor An­drew Mel­lon in 1931, it was one of the most revered pic­tures in the Im­pe­rial her­mitage Col­lec­tion.

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