Musée des Arts Contemporains de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles

Man, Dragon and Death: The Glory of Saint Georges

Through representations of the legend of Saint George, of which the episode of the battle with the dragon is the best known and most widely represented, this exhibition aims to show how the traditional image of Saint George and our historical knowledge about him have a unique power to capture the imagination.

In fact, since the dragon and Saint George are two fictitious figures which confront one another in combat which never really took place, it was possible for all eras to represent this scene, not merely by referring to a fixed symbol. Thus, the image did not stop proliferating and changing, revealing its ability not only to give meaning to Christian thought, but also to the most diverse interpretations made of them by artists and Man.

The exhibition Man, Dragon and Death: The Glory of Saint Georges contains a selection of the many paintings, sculptures, drawings and illuminations that have represented the saint in several ways. It considers how Saint George and the dragon are perceived by our contemporaries as a crucible of man’s various struggles against hostile forces, but also, and perhaps more importantly, of man’s struggle against himself to affirm his own destiny.

The success of the cult of Saint George was considerable and his fame spread to all parts of the Christian world. He became the patron saint of such European countries and regions as England (St. George), Portugal, Catalonia and Aragon (Sant Jordi). A polysemic figure, Saint George was also the patron saint of corporations (knights, gunsmiths, saddlers, ploughmen, etc.), all types of orders and hundreds of European towns, which placed themselves under his protection. As a result, multiple representations of him populate Europe’s largest collections, whilst numerous evocations also exist in popular traditions, which today still constitute an intangible heritage that this exhibition aims to examine.

Specific orders were placed with a few modern artists, who have been invited to present how this myth has still retained all of its meaning today. Including Giuseppe Penone, Angel Vergara Santiago, David Claerbout et Luc Tuymans.

To prepare the exhibition and the publication which accompanies it in conjunction with the Fonds Mercator, a large amount of scientific research and collection of works of art related to the legend of Saint George as portrayed by major institutions (museums and church collections in Europe) has broadened our knowledge of the subject, in both historic and artistic terms. The exhibition catalogue also offers the chance to explore, through texts and
many works, the iconographic diversity of the subject.

The curators

MANFRED SELLINK was the Director of the Musées de la ville de Bruges until 2014. Since the beginning of this year, he has been the Director of the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA). He has organized many exhibitions and research projects. He specializes in old Dutch prints and drawings (second half of the 16th century). Manfred Sellink has many publications to his name, in particular on Pieter Bruegel concerning whom he produced the great graphical retrospective work in 2001 (Rotterdam, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

LAURENT BUSINE is the director of the MAC’s – Museum of Contemporary Arts at Grand-Hornu. Having graduated in art history and archaeology, he is an exhibition organiser and the author of numerous scientific and literary publications. He was a lecturer in museology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and from 1982 to 2002, exhibition director at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi.