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Figure

Figure

  • Place of origin:

    Spain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1530 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Becerril, Francisco (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, raised and parcel-gilt

  • Museum number:

    179-1864

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 83, The Whiteley Galleries, case 1

This small figure may be one of the few remaining fragments of the custodia of Cuenca Cathedral in Spain. The custodia was a very large silver object used during religious processions such as the annual Corpus Christi parade. It was broken up when the cathedral in Cuenca was looted by French soldiers in 1808.

The life of St George is shrouded in legend. The most famous story associated with him describes how he rescued a town in Libya which was being terrorized by a dragon. The dragon is often seen as the symbol of the devil or of paganism and St George as the protector of the church. St George became the patron saint of England in 1222.

Physical description

Figure of St George in armour vanquishing a dragon at his feet with a pike.

Place of Origin

Spain (made)

Date

ca. 1530 (made)

Artist/maker

Becerril, Francisco (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver, raised and parcel-gilt

Marks and inscriptions

Unmarked

Dimensions

Height: 8.50 cm, Width: 4.5 cm, Depth: 2.3 cm

Object history note

This figure is probably from the custodia of Cuenca Cathedral which was looted and broken up by French soldiers in 1808.
Purchased at Saragossa by J.C. Robinson.

Historical context note

Saints and Symbols
Like most religions, Christianity has a rich language of images and symbols. This iconography would have been clearly understood in the past but it may be less familiar to modern eyes.

Though often decorative, the symbols used on religious metalwork also refer to the function and significance of the objects. The contemplation of religious motifs can draw believers into a deeper understanding of their faith. Complex theological themes can be represented in a visual form. A chalice, for example, might be adorned with the tools used in the Crucifixion (the 'Instruments of the Passion') to direct the viewer's mind towards Christ's sacrifice and his death on the cross.

The use of images has caused controversy throughout Christian history. While supporters held that imagery glorified God and helped believers understand their faith better, critics attacked its use as superstition and idolatry.

Saints
Christians venerate saints as men and women who, through the holiness of their lives, became especially close to God. The saints include martyrs who suffered and died for their faith as well as great teachers and preachers. Their lives provide an example and inspiration for the faithful. Roman Catholics also believe that saints can intercede on their behalf with God. In Christian iconography, saints are usually depicted with a distinctive object or 'attribute' associated with their martyrdom or works. For example, St Bartholomew, who was skinned alive, holds a flaying knife, and St George is shown with a dragon.

Descriptive line

Figure of St George, silver parcel-gilt. Spain, around 1530.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

The Golden Age of Hispanic Silver: 1400-1665, Charles Oman, HMSO 1968.
Pérez Ramírez, Dimas. La Custodia de la Catedral de Cuenca. Cuenca: Gaceta Conquense, 1985.

Labels and date

St George and the Dragon

This small figure may be one of the few remaining fragments of the custodia of Cuenca Cathedral in Spain. The custodia was a very large silver object used during religious processions such as the annual Corpus Christi parade. It was broken up when the cathedral in Cuenca was looted by French soldiers in 1808.

The life of St George is shrouded in legend. The most famous story associated with him describes how he rescued a town in Libya which was being terrorized by a dragon. The dragon is often seen as the symbol of the devil or of paganism and St George as the protector of the church. St George became the patron saint of England in 1222.

Spain, about 1530. Silver, partly gilded
Museum no. 179-1864 [22/11/2005]

Materials

Silver

Techniques

Raising; Parcel gilding

Subjects depicted

Dragon

Categories

Metalwork; Christianity; Religion

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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