Mythology in Art

Article excerpt

The Dragon--that quintessential baddie of folklore and mythology--takes center stage in this month's featured Art Print. Although Saint George is clearly the hero of Peter Paul Rubens' iconic painting, it is the pitch-black, scaly, fire-spewing beast he is attempting to slay that inspires fascination.

Dragon references first appeared in the Near East between the Fifth and Fourth Century, B.C., and have continued to this day. Nearly every culture in the world has its own dragon lore and iconography.

"Dragons are awe-inspiring patchwork creatures found in the myths and legends of cultures all around the world.... Despite their differences, many of the mythical dragons found throughout the world all began as vague serpentine ideas modeled after real creatures, beginning with a snake or some other fearsome reptile. Over time, they acquired more definite and exotic shapes as they absorbed the hopes and superstitions of the local people and borrowed the traits of local animals." (livescience.com)

Yet, not all dragons are the loathsome and feared beasts of Western and Christian mythology, in which they represent Satan, evil and the vanquishing of paganism. Many Asian cultures revere the dragon, such as in China, where dragons are symbols of power, happiness and fertility. Despite the dragon being a product of the ancient world, its image and allure are still inspiring artists today.

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"So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings."--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit.

Although many Christian saints could claim the title "Dragon Slayer," it is Saint George who gets all the glory. The Legend of Saint George and the Dragon, which originated during the Crusades, is as follows: A ferocious dragon was terrorizing a kingdom. …