Near the Libyan city of Silene, a passing Christian knight chances upon a pagan princess being sacrificed to appease a venomous dragon. Ignoring her protests, he charges the dragon, subduing it with his lance. When he and the princess enter Silene with the injured dragon in tow, the grateful population convert to Christianity. The story of Saint George and the Dragon was popularized in Jacobus da Varagine’s The Golden Legend around the year 1260, but as a visual arts motif symbolic of light vanquishing darkness, it has been in use since about the 3rd century B.C.E.
This iteration by Raphael is a small cabinet painting, measuring 11.2 in. x 8.5 in. Saint George is shown wearing the blue garter of the chivalric Order of the Garter, of which he is the patron saint. It was commissioned by Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro of Urbino, who was made a knight of this order in 1504, and presented to either King Henry VII or his emissary, Gilbert Talbot.