Saint George Slaying the Dragon
Carlo Crivelli, Italian, about 1430-1495
Charged with excitement and bristling with spiky forms, Saint George Slaying the Dragon is one of Carlo Crivelli’s masterpieces. Although the artist worked for more than thirty years after painting it, he never produced anything quite so full of vigor and imagination. What could be more dramatic than the contrast between the rearing horse, its head distorted with fear, and the tender saint, his eyes fixed on the dragon he is about to slaughter? Crivelli’s saint is no robust hero, but a slim boy who must use all his might to wield his heavy sword. The jutting shapes of his armor are echoed in the towers of the hill town in the background. On a cliff just below it, kneels the tiny figure of the princess who was to be the dragon’s next victim.
Few paintings in the Gardner Museum are more self-sufficient. Yet Crivelli’s Saint George originated as part of a large altarpiece. Crivelli made the altarpiece for the parish church of Porta San Giorgio, a village near Fermo on the Adriatic coast. It was commissioned by an Albanian immigrant, Giorgio Salvadori.