The icon of The Double Miracle of Great Martyr George is composed of two scenes: St. George Slaying the Dragon and The Miracle of the Youth Rescued from Prison.
There are different redactions of the St. George Slaying the Dragon tale, obviously based on the ancient folklore. Some redactions describe the miraculous event preceding St. George’s death, while others feature the episodes that happened thereafter. Yet, all the redactions are united by a common concept - St. George defeats the Dragon, a symbol of paganism, rescues from death the emperor’s daughter victimized to the Dragon and saves the town from the monster who poisons air and the crop by his breathing and devours people and the cattle.
The Miracle of the Youth Rescued from Prison is a legend about the saint’s postmortem miracles, also existing in several redactions, some of which relate a story about a young man from Paphlagonia who was kidnapped from the church during a religious festival, while others tell about a young Syrian ostiary or a son of pious parents who went to war against the Bulgars. All the redactions have the same common ending: St. George on the horseback miraculously appears before the young prisoner as he was serving wine to his master, sat him on the horse behind himself with a wine pot and took him back to his native town.
The images of St. George killing the Dragon have been known since the 11th century, while the scenes of rescuing the young prisoner appeared not later than in the 12th century. Both iconographic versions are encountered in monumental paintings in churches, miniatures and icon-painting, on individual icons and centerpieces of the hagiographic icons. On a 12th - 13th century fresco from the Temple of Three Horseman in Erski-Kermen (Crimea) both scenes are placed alongside each other. Both compositions portray the saint as a mounted warrior. N.P.Kondakov links the spread of the St. George the Horseman image in Byzantine art with the use of cavalry against nomads.
The icon of The Double Miracle of the Great Martyr George incorporates these two very similar iconographic versions. St. George is shown in the centerpiece, he is riding a galloping horse and slaying the dragon with a spear; behind him sits the small figure of the youth holding a wine-pot. The scene can also include depictions of the princess pulling the tamed dragon by the belt and the king against an urban background. The upper part of the icon can show the blessing Savior or the right hand. The earliest of surviving images of The Double Miracle of the Great Martyr George date back to the 14th century, such as, for example, a 1327 (?) Greek icon from the church in Alexandrupolis.
Zhanna G. Belik,
Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.
Olga E. Savchenko,
research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.
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