St. George and the Princess Sabra

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

General Description

Date: 1861-1862
Subject: In this picture we observe St. George after he has killed the dragon, with the Princess Sabra thanking him. He looks out the window to the rejoicing crowd who celebrate their deliverance and carry the dragon's head in triumph.
Model: Elizabeth Siddal (Siddal sat for the Princess a few days before she died)


◦ Fredeman, Correspondence, 61. 105 and 62. 7

◦ Marillier, An Illustrated Memorial, 124.

◦ Sharp, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 178-179

◦ Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, 87 (no. 151).

Scholarly Commentary

Production History

DGR began the picture in late 1861 and completed it around 13 January 1862. Ellen Heaton approached DGR to buy it and they came to an agreement in a few days at the end of December 1861. She bought it for 65 guineas. In 1868 DGR made a water-colour replica which he sold to Frederick W. Craven in 1871, but the location of this picture is not known.

DGR told Miss Heaton he judged the watercolour “strictly one of my best drawings”. He went on to describe the picture in greater detail: “I will send the St. George by the time you name if, as I imagine, nothing occurs to detain it. I trust you will not be disappointed with the out of window bit, which however is not very bright in effect. Being altogether in one corner, & no bright colour occurring anywhere else in the picture, it would hardly have been practicable without endangering the balance of light & shade, to have adopted an effect similar to that in Mr. Combe's picture, where the outdoor light is central. Moreover there is little seen here except a crowd of people & a dead dragon” (see Fredeman, Correspondence, 61. 105 and 62.7 ).

It is unclear if this picture was executed before the series of six designs DGR made for his Story of St. George stained glass series, now at the Victoria and Albert Museum. See the commentary for The Story of St. George and the Dragon: the Skulls Brought to the King.


St. George is pictured washing his hands after his battle with the dragon. He is wearing a dalmatic, the liturgical garment traditionally given to a young man entering the deaconate. If it has anything other than a decorative function, it may be a symbol of St. George's purity. St. George's head distinctly echoes DGR's representation of the head of Christ in Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee, and in particular in the study he made for that head in 1858.


The legend of St. George (the patron saint of England) and the dragon is essentially the same as the legend of Perseus and Andromeda. Widely dispersed as the legend is, all versions include the following bare narrative. Terrorized by a dragon, a town is forced by the monster to sacrifice a young girl each day to him. When St. George learns of this and that the Princess Sabra is his latest intended victim, he attacks the monster, finally defeats him, and completes his triumph with his marriage to the princess.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: s151.raw.xml