St George and the Dragon, Victory Leading

SIR ALFRED GILBERT RA PRWS HRI (1854-1934) Biography
NEW SCULPTURE (1877-1914)

St George and the Dragon, Victory Leading (England, 1904 - 1923)

Bronze on marble base

Dimensions

44.00cm high
(17.32 inches high)
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Provenance

British Rail Pension Fund Collection

Literature

Adrian Bury, Shadow of Eros: A Biographical and Critical Study of the Life and Works of Sir Alfred Gilbert RA, 1954, page 69
Lavinia Handley-Read, Alfred Gilbert: A New Assessment III, Connoisseur volume 164 1968, page 148
Richard Dorment, Alfred Gilbert, London 1985, pages 238, 246, 264, 268, 277 & 299
Richard Dorment, Alfred Gilbert Sculptor and Goldsmith, London 1986, page 186

Exhibition History

London, The Fine Art Society, Exhibition of Bronze Statuettes by Sir Alfred Gilbert RA 1932, number 16
London, The Fine Art Society, Exhibition of Bronze Statuettes by the Late Sir Alfred Gilbert RA, 1935, number 13
London, Royal Academy, Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Arts, The Handley-Read Collection, 1972, number F31
Manchester City Art Gallery, Victorian High Renaissance, 1978-1979, number 101. Travelling to:
Minneapolis Institute of Arts;
Brooklyn Museum
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century, 1981, number 22
London, Royal Academy, Alfred Gilbert Sculptor and Goldsmith, 1986, number 101
London, The Mall Galleries, The Heatherley School of Art 150th Anniversary Exhibition, February - March 1996, number 79 (this cast)

Description / Expertise

St George and the Dragon, Victory Leading was conceived in 1904. The plaster was first exhibited in 1906. The only edition in bronze was cast for the Fine Art Society in 1923. From the edition of four, one cast, from the Handley-Read collection, is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. One other is in a private collection.

Whilst many of the New Sculptors sought an ever more naturalistic figurative, Alfred Gilbert became increasingly devoted to the expression of the unconscious, developing a language which was essentially Symbolic and which wholly contradicted the realism of his early figures. These later works are often embellished with ornament.

In St George and the Dragon, Victory Leading, St George shouts out for joy, urging his horse over the body of the slain dragon. The composition is an expression of a curious dream that Alfred Gilbert experienced on 15 May, 1904. He had dreamt that he was at work on an equestrian group of St George; the Saint, triumphant in victory, the defeated dragon spread-eagled over the pinnacles and turrets of a town. As in his vision, the finished work is sculpted with a compelling, dreamlike disjunction of scale.

Seeking a commission from the Lancashire regiment of Lord Grey for a large-scale memorial to the dead of the Boer War, he later added the figure of Victory to the original group. As the prospect of the commission became more probable, he placed the group on a six-sided base. The commission never materialized and the sculptor showed the plaster of St George and the Dragon at the Royal Academy in 1906 (number 1773).