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Lot 13 - "Saint George". Carved and polychromed sculpture with "estofado" technique. Spanish [...]

Estimation : 9 500 € / 11 000 €

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"Saint George". Carved and polychromed sculpture with "estofado" technique. Spanish School. First third of the 17th century.

Figure measurements: 94 x 41 x 29 cm. Total measurements: 122 x 65 x 39 cm.

This curious and exquisite sculpture of Saint George defeating the dragon was undoubtedly made for a reredos, as the back has not only not been worked, but also it has not been polychromed or gilded either, which tells us that this part of it would not have been on display to worshipers.

Saint George was a Roman soldier whose legend, and, more specifically, that relevant to his battle with the dragon, was partly recognised by Jacobus de Voragine in his famous Golden Legend. The depictions of the saint have a certain stylised canon. He has been portrayed as a warrior at the point of finishing off his enemy. Thus, he stands in a rather static position on the dragon’s thorax, which he is at the point of killing with the lance he is holding in both hands. His right leg is slightly bent to bring a little movement to the composition, which the uneven arrangement of the hands contributes to, as they make a diagonal which ends in the dragon’s mouth.

The saint wears gilded armour which has been richly decorated with estofado, under which a short tunic with long sleeves can be seen and a cape with curved folds which are fastened with a brooch placed on the left shoulder. His torso is covered with a type of breastplate which is fitted to his body and defines his anatomy; a series of bracelets or coiled bangles, all in golden tones with a border of painted, stylised vegetation elements. The folds in the armour and tunic are treated with some naturalism. Behind the left arm a large sword can be seen with a gilded hilt, which adds to his soldier or warrior character. The saint’s face, which betrays a certain softness in the cheeks and the chin, is meticulously modelled, meaning that each of the features has been portrayed with great detail, as has the lush hair which falls in ringlets over his forehead. The heavy-lidded eyes are noticeable as they appear to show tiredness in his countenance.

The dragon, which is fighting back, opens its mouth full of serrated teeth with a forked tongue. Its body is a mix of different beings: it has a dragon’s head, bat’s wings and a scaly, snake-like tail with a life of its own which is rising up to bite the saint.

The set, and especially the face, show a series of characteristics which allow us to date it to the first third of the 17th century. The classical style plinth, decorated with two scrolls on each of its sides, also suggests the same chronology. There is the remote possibility that this is not actually a depiction of Saint George, which is doubtful as the enemy he is facing is a dragon with an entire body, which normally denotes Saint George. When the beast has at least one human part in its body it denotes a portrayal of Saint Michael. This question deepens when considering the fact that on the upper part of the back there is an orifice, present in numerous baroque effigies of Saint Michael, in which wings that were made independently from the body could be inserted.

The portrayal of Saint George was at its zenith from the late classical era until the beginnings of the early modern period, and he is also the patron saint of certain lands, meaning that depictions of him continued to be made, for example, in the lands of the Crown of Aragon, where the origins of his patronage come from the legend in which Sancho Ramírez’s troops defeated the enemy in the Battle of Alcoraz (1096) due to the saint’s miraculous intervention. This miracle has a parallel in the miraculous intervention of Saint James the Moor-slayer in the Battle of Clavijo (844) in the lands of the Crown of Castile. This suggests that the sculpture could have come from a workshop situated in a town in the former territory of the Crown of Aragon. However, we cannot rule out the idea that it might have been made by a Castilian master.

We would like to thank Javier Baladrón, doctor in History of Art, for identifying and cataloguing this piece.

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