Saint George’s Day

April 20, 2009

By Stuart Frost

Scenes from the Story of St George, Museum no. A. 41 1954.St George’s day falls this week on Thursday 23 April. I have written about St George previously, in April 2007 in fact, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much here. I noted then that although there are a large number of images of St George in the V&A’s collections most of them are not English. George was a very popular saint across medieval and Renaissance Europe. He is, for example, represented on works of art from Spain, Italy and Germany in the V&A’s collections.

St George is believed to have died around AD303. His legend was popularised in western Europe through a text known as The Golden Legend. The book contains biographies of saints, Apostles and martyrs and was compiled in the thirteenth century by Jacobus de Voragine. The book was published in English in 1483 by William Caxton and is still in print today in various scholarly and popular editions.

Every year the press debates whether the English fail to celebrate St George’s day enough. Inevitably comparisons are drawn with St Patrick’s Day which is celebrated on a much larger scale by Irish communities around the world. This year the Mayor of London has adopted a more active role in promoting St George’s day. It remains to be seen how London will respond.Scenes from the Story of St George, Museum no. A. 41 1954.

My own contribution to marking St George’s day is to include a few pictures of a wonderful statuette carved with stunning virtuosity. Although the subject matter was obviously significant to the person who owned the piece originally, the sculpture must have been prized particularly for the quality of the artist’s work. It is a wonderful object to inspect carefully and rewards close and sustained attention. For a better view of the object, and to find out more about it, click on the image.

To find more images of Saint George search in the V&A’s collections visit Collections Online.

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