As Ursula Hoff notes in European Paintings before 1800 in the National Gallery of Victoria (1995, p. 165), this beautiful painting relates to two different versions of the St George myth. According to the mid-thirteenth century account in Jacopo da Voragine’s Golden Legend, the people of Silene in Libya had been sacrificing their children to a dragon, in the vain hope of appeasing it. When it came time for the daughter of the king to be sacrificed, St George rode out against the dragon and subdued it, allowing the princess to lead the creature captive into the city. While acknowledging this narrative, the Melbourne panel more closely follows the slightly later version of the story, told by Petrus de Natalibus in his Heiligenleben of c.1370, in which St George slays the dragon by beheading it with his sword. In the painting, the archetypal confrontation between good and evil is conveyed through the contrast presented by the spiky, bat-like black dragon and the saint with his sleekly rounded protective armour, and by the counterposing of the black monster and the saint’s white horse. The battle between St George and the dragon is presided over by the figure of God the Father.

Text by Dr Ted Gott from Painting and sculpture before 1800 in the international collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 23.


  • Title: St George slaying the dragon
  • Creator: Paolo Uccello
  • Date Created: (c. 1430)
  • Location Created: Florence, Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: 62.2 x 38.8 cm (Unframed)
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1949, © National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: oil, tempera and silver leaf on wood panel
  • Provenance: Possibly acquired by James Carnegie (1827–1905), 9th Earl of Southesk, before 1905; by descent to Sir Charles Alexander Carnegie (1893–1992), 11th Earl of Southesk, until 1949; exhibited National Gallery of Scotland, Edingburgh, as by Orcagna, owner Sir Charles Alexander Carnegie; by whom sold to Agnew's, London, in 1949; from where acquired, on the advice of A. J. L. McDonnell and Sir Kenneth Clark, for the Felton Bequest, 1949.
  • Place Part Of: Italy
  • Additional information: The attribution of old master paintings is fluid at times, as ongoing researches bring to light new information. This painting is currently attributed by many scholars to Paolo Uccello. The painting was recommended to the National Gallery of Victoria for acquisition in 1949, by the Felton Bequest Adviser A. J. L. McDonnell, as a work by the Sienese artist Domenico di Bartolo (c.1400–c.1445). This attribution, first posited by Raimond van Marle in 1927, was supported by Sir Kenneth Clark, who was also advising the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne at the time the work was purchased. In 1928, however, the Italian scholar Roberto Longhi had ascribed this panel to the school of Paolo Uccello. In an influential article in Paragone-arte in 1980, Carlo Volpe argued that the painting should be returned to the hand of Uccello. Since that time, a firm attribution to Uccello has been supported by numerous scholars, including Alessandro Angelini (1990), Franco and Stefano Borsi (1994), Anna Padoa Rizzo (1997), Laurence B. Kanter (2000), and Hugh Hudson (2002).

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