Unidentifed Artist, Ethiopian, 20th century, St. George the Dragon-Killer, n.d., acrylic on linen, Gift of Anna and Tadeusz Kozminski. Photo: Richard Stoner.
St. George is the national patron saint of Ethiopia and is therefore depicted widely. According to medieval legend, St. George is said to have rescued a young maiden who had been offered by local townspeople as sacrifice to a menacing beast. Birutawit the Maiden (or the Maiden born in Beirut) is seen in the upper right viewing the scene from a tree. Dressed in splendid military attire atop a white horse, St. George thrusts a spear through the dragon’s neck. By the 16th century, the image of a dragon had replaced that of a snake. Like all Ethiopian icons, the composition of this work is based on precedents developed over centuries. Characters of good and evil are easily distinguishable: evil is shown in profile while holy persons are depicted with both eyes facing forward. The image of St. George as a warrior for Christ endures as a representation of good triumphant over evil.