Attributed to Francesco Fanelli
1590-1653 | Italian
St. George Slaying the Dragon
Gilt bronze set atop an ebony-veneered base
Florentine sculptor Francesco Fanelli is believed to have created this incredible gilt bronze of St. George slaying a man-eating dragon dating to the first half of the 17th century. Though he worked in other mediums, it is his masterworks of bronze that, even during his time, earned the artist great success and royal patronage.
The Italian-born sculptor came to England circa 1635, quickly finding favor with King Charles I. Named "sculptor to the King of Great Britain", Fanelli is known to have created brilliant, large-scale bronzes based upon religious and mythological tales, yet he rarely signed his pieces. The legend of St. George appears to have been of particular significance since it appears frequently in the few records that exist in regards to the artist's oeuvre.
In the Middle Ages, dragons were associated with the Devil. St. George's slaying of the mythical beast, combined with his courage and faith during his martyrdom, cemented his place as the personification of Christian chivalry. St. George was taken as the patron saint of England beginning with King Edward III's founding of the Order of the Garter, which he placed under the banner of St. George, circa 1348. From then on, there are countless accounts of St. George being invoked before battle, hence the martyr's association with soldiers and bravery in combat.
This regal gilt bronze captures the very moment St. George traps the dragon under his steed, slaying the creature with his spear. Powerful, majestic and expertly cast, it is of little wonder why Fanelli found favor amongst British royalty and nobility. The Duke of Newcastle at Welbeck was another of the artist's prominent patrons, and two bronzes of the St. George legend are listed in the Duke's inventory as Fanelli creations that vary slightly in their composition, yet retain their tremendous beauty and detail.
12" high x 7 3/4" wide x 5 1/4" deep
The Mr. and Mrs. Saul P. Steinberg Collection of Old Masters and Antiques;The Steinberg Collection, Sotheby's, New York, May 26, 2000, Lot 220;Private Collection
Fanelli's works can be found in the following musuems:
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Wallace Collection, London
J. Paul Getty Musuem, Los Angeles
Frick Collection, New York City
Art Institute of Chicago
Cleveland Museum of Art
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore