St George and the Dragon Victory Leading
St George and the Dragon Victory Leading, Sir Alfred Gilbert (1904)
The St George and the Dragon Victory Leading bronze statuette is a favourite image in my book St George and the Dragons. Searches for this beautiful and unusual representation of St George have come up on the first page of searches for ‘St George’, so I must be doing something right.
The statuette is 17.5 inches high and comprises two remarkable sections. The first is composed of three figures: St George carrying a banneret and joyously urging his horse on over the body of the beaten dragon; the squire Victory to the right leading the horse by its bridle in his left hand and waving a palm of victory in his right; and the horse prancing excitedly over his foe.
The base of the statuette is even more remarkable. There lies the dragon not simply sprawling on the ground but spreadeagled over the clearly delineated pinnacles and turrets of a town.
The sculptor, Sir Alfred Gilbert R.A. (1854-1934) is most famous for the Shaftesbury Memorial at Piccadilly Circus, London, usually known as Eros. He conceived his astonishing sculpture of St George and the Dragon after a dream on 15 May 1904. What the statuette does is capture the excitement of the moment of triumph. The prominence the sculptor gave to the symbolism accounts for the gross disproportion of the dragon and the town to the figures above. In fact the relative proportions suggest that the horse and the figures represent the heavenly St George. The horse comes to earth, so to speak, only with his back legs, which seem braced to leap off with his rider.
Gilbert himself led a tumultuous life. He went bankrupt, his wife left him and he was obliged to live in exile in Bruges throughout World War I. But then his fortunes revived, he returned to London and was knighted for his memorial to Queen Alexandra at Marlborough Gate.
Gilbert’s work has gone in and out of fashion but he was one of Britain’s finest sculptors. His bronze statuette St George and the Dragon Victory Leading remains one of my favourites.
http://www.leicestergalleries.com/ where the statuette is on view.
http://www.victorianweb.org/sculpture/gilbert/16.html where the statuette is described