Oil on Canvas 40 x 30cm (15 1/2 x 11 3/4in)
In beginning this painting I had in mind the small egg tempera and walnut oil work of Paolo Uccello known as St George and the Dragon, in the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris. Uccello's work is a marvel of simply disposed and powerful imagery. Three figures -- maiden, dragon, knight -- take up the foreground in narrative sequence. The lady first; she has/had a problem. The dragon, her problem, comes next. And then the solution: the knight on his white charger. But there's a double layer to the positioning and timing: the dragon has been struck by the knight's lance; and -- returning to the maiden -- we see that she is already preparing to give grateful thanks. It's the old jaded story: damsel in distress, the Perils of Pauline, the plot of endless t.v. and film dramas of today. Yet the narrative complexity engages us. And there's more: stretching into the distance on the other side of the dragon's cave cultivated fields are laid out in orderly, geometric fashion, signifying fruitfulness; they lead on to a white castellated fortress, the home awaiting George and his lady.
The fantastic ballet of spears, horses and knights in Uccello's three paintings of The Battle of San Romano and his eerie hunting scenes, were appreciated in his day, then forgotten; to be rediscovered in the 20th centruy by Cubists and Surrealists.
In omitting the dragon's cave and background landscape, and deploying odds and ends meant to suggest other works of the Renaissance, I've chosen to emphasize the fantastic side of Uccello, while sacrificing the purity and stylized simplicity of the original.
This is my submission to Michelle Burnett's Following the Masters challenge for March.