St George Slays the Dragon
This icon is dedicated to one of the most popular saints in ancient Rus', George the martyr, a valiant Roman soldier of the Christian faith who lived in the 4th century and was beheaded by the emperor Diocletian.
He is depicted on horseback, in military dress, slaying the dragon, a representation of evil. This icon is linked to the spread of apocryphal legends according to which in a city in Asia Minor there lived a dragon, or snake, which a young human life was fed to daily. When it was Elisava’s turn, the king's daughter, suddenly George appeared on his horse and defeated the dragon, which was then tied up with a belt and carried to the city by Princess Elisava as a trophy. The icon shows the princess at the city gate on the right holding the belt and, above her, the rulers, her parents. An angel places a crown on George’s head, an emblem of glory.
This work of art displays links to the pictorial traditions of the 17th-18th centuries with its natural shapes, the Baroque stylistic features in the architecture, the dynamic energy pervading the figure of St. George, the foreshortened, rather than profile, structure of the horse's head, and the depiction of the dragon with powerful legs, rather than as a winged serpent. Dating back to the third or fourth decade of the 18th century, this icon in the Uffizi Galleries is one of the oldest examples of an icon style that also characterises two icons preserved in the museums of Kostroma and Čerepovec (18th-19th centuries). A rather unusual element that recurs only in the Florentine specimen, however, is the depiction of the bones and remains of the dragon's victims, which can perhaps be traced back to the influence of Western painting.
The icon was likely executed in the same workshop as some other icons in the Uffizi Galleries were painted (inv. 1890 no. 9322, 9352, 9362, 9366).