Obra comentada: Lucha de San Jorge y el Dragón, Rubens

Obra comentada: Lucha de San Jorge y el Dragón, Rubens


This is a particularly interesting painting for various reasons. In addition to being one of the earliest works by the artist in the Prado, it includes a detail or anecdote that I believe to be revealing with regard to Rubens’ creativity and to what he aimed to express as a painter. If we look at the horse’s mouth we can see that it is surrounded by spittle or froth, which is unusual in paintings of horses prior to this date when Rubens began to make his appearance as a painter. However, it would become common from then on due to his influence, and numerous painters imitated him in this respect. The artist was undoubtedly inspired by classical texts that used the literary image of froth around the horse’s mouth to convey the notion of passion or of the dynamism and vitality of life. In addition, it appears in a story recounted by Pliny the Elder regarding two classical Greek painters, pintores de la Antigua Grecia, Protógenes y Nealces, que buscando precisamente conseguir eso, Protogenes and Nealces. Wishing to achieve this effect of vitality and real life rather than the mere appearance of reality, these two painters achieved their aim by painting froth around a dog and a horse’s mouth. It is interesting that Rubens turned to these sources. Clearly he had read Pliny and knew the story of Protogenes and Nealces, as well as the way that classical poets such as Virgil in the Aeneid used the poetic image of the horse with a frothing mouth to convey a sense of vitality. Rubens imitated this device and was the first painter to do so. This is particularly interesting as it reveals one of the key characteristics of Rubens’ art and one that we should most appreciate and learn from, which is precisely the sensation that he succeeds in communicating to us of an exalted vision of life, a life that is, so to speak, more real than life itself. In Rubens’ art, painting is not an imitation of life but an exaltation of it.

1 Reply to “Obra comentada: Lucha de San Jorge y el Dragón, Rubens”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *