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Scenes from the Story of St George

  • Object:

    Statuette

  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (South, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1520 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Boxwood

  • Museum number:

    A.41-1954

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 9, shelf 2 []

This virtuoso carving with scenes from the story of St. George is supposed to have been the property of Sir William Turner, a former Lord Mayor of London, into whose possession it came about 250 years ago. It was he who accepted a challenge from Sir H. V. Tempest to prove its authenticity, and for a wager of 1000 guineas, thoroughly tested it with boiling water and vinegar. He created the Sir William Turner's Hospital and School Foundation at Kirkleatham, near Redcar, in 1676, whose property the carving eventually became and remained there until 1950.
Although its subject is religious this carving was not intended for devotional use but made as a luxury object. The virtuoso carving of the wood and emphasis given to the details of armour and dress of an earlier period are typical of such objects produced for 'cabinets of curiosities'. Such Kunstkammer (art cabinet) collections were being assembled by both princely and merchant patrons from around 1500 and included rare natural materials as well as precious man-made objects.

Physical description

The legend is illustrated in four scenes:
1.) At the bottom left-hand corner, St. George, in full armour on horseback, rides past the gates of a city. Behind and above him the princess (sometimes identified as Sabra, or Cleodolinda) kneels for mercy outside the gates, accompanied by a lamb. The King and Queen look down sorrowfully. Above them is a servant.
2.) On the bottom right-hand side, St. George rides through a forested valley, littered with skulls and skeletons, and teeming with lizards, snakes and other wild beasts. The princess stands at the head of the ravine on a crest of rock.
3.) In the right middle register of the carving, St. George attacks the dragon, while the princess kneels in prayer, the lamb close by in front of her. From the hillside a monster peers out of a crevice, and a large toad broods over the combat.
4.) At the top, St. George leads the way down to the city, followed by the princess and the dragon, whose neck is now bound by the princess's girdle, the other end of which she holds not without trepidation. From the windows and the housetops, the townsfolk watch the approach of this procession.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (South, made)

Date

ca. 1520 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Boxwood

Dimensions

Height: 34 cm, Width: 13.8 cm, Depth: 8.2 cm

Object history note

Bought from Dr. F.H. Rothman, 5 Melina Place, London, N.W.8 for £450, from the Murray bequest. The carving is supposed to have been the property of Sir William Turner, a former Lord Mayor of London, into whose possession it came about 250 years ago. It was he who accepted a challenge from Sir H. V. Tempest to prove its authenticity, and for a wager of 1000 guineas, thoroughly tested it with boiling water and vinegar. He created the Sir William Turner's Hospital and School Foundation at Kirkleatham, near Redcar, in 1676, whose property the carving eventually became and remained there until 1950.

Historical context note

Although its subject is religious this carving was not intended for devotional use but made as a luxury object. The virtuoso carving of the wood and emphasis given to the details of armour and dress of an earlier period are typical of such objects produced for 'cabinets of curiosities'. Such Kunstkammer (art cabinet) collections were being assembled by both princely and merchant patrons from around 1500 and included rare natural materials as well as precious man-made objects.

Descriptive line

Statuette, boxwood, Scenes from the Story of St. George, Netherlandish, ca. 1520

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

Kirkleatham - A History of the Village Estate and Old Hall Museum, catalogue published by Langbaurgh on Tees Museum Service, Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum, Kirkleatham, Redcar, Cleveland, p. 7.
Scholten, Frits, ed. Small Wonders. Late-Gothic Boxwood Micro-Carvings from the Low Countries, exh. cat. pp. 446-447, 498-501, 631, figs. 194-203, 205.

Materials

Boxwood

Subjects depicted

Lizards; Valley; Dragon; Princess; King; Town; Armour; Beast; Queen; Lamb; Snakes; Horseback; Skeletons

Categories

Christianity; Myths & Legends; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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