In this beautiful painting by Altdorfer, it is easy to miss St. George and the dragon! We are first struck by the dense, dark forest – perhaps an image of the unconscious?
Altdorfer shows us a traditional subject in a very untraditional way. There is no princess being rescued. There is a very hidden, private battle going on.
Which makes me think of the inner battles we face with “dragons within” who do not always sleep but trouble us with our weaknesses and our temptations.
Perhaps they also trouble us with other darknesses of the spirit.
But I don’t think this is a painting about despair.
Because ultimately St. George defeats the dragon, as we all know. However dark, however private our battles are, victory is always a possibility.
Our minds can be confusing places, and unlike St. George we can feel very vulnerable, without armour, horse or lance.
Near the head of St. George, there is a small clearing through to light and a distant hill. There is a way out, though it may be hard to find at times.
But finding the light may help to transform what seems like a threatening and frightening dark wood, into the presence of the lusciousness of green life, and may orientate us to a meaningful way forwards that brings hope.