Representing St. George in pottery.

Representing St. George in pottery.

The tale of St George slaying a Dragon in order to stop the King of Silene’s daughter from being fed to it travelled back along the Silk Road with the Christian Crusaders who struck out in the 11th century to reclaim the Holy Land from Islamic rule.

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Late 12th century Byzantine plate depicting a hero slaying a monster.

St. George is thought to have been a Roman soldier who became a martyr after refusing to recant his Christian faith despite being threatened with death by Emperor Diocletian. Earliest known representations in the Eastern artistic tradition show him attacking a human foe but later a fight, on foot, with a dragon became more prevalent.

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“Smiting blindly at the horror with his sword.”

By the 12th century the story had assumed a Romantic guise and dragon-slaying became more representative of a chivalrous cause so that by the second half of the 13th century, Western art more usually depicted him on horseback crushing a diminutive dragon beneath his horse’s hooves.

It is interesting to note that my earthenware jug, whilst depicting an armour-clad medieval knight, has no reference to the red-on-white St George’s Cross which began to appear from the 14th century onwards.  The origins of the jug are unknown although the shape of the handle and the raised spout are similar to those of Ridgway medieval knight jugs. However, this lack of the cross makes me think that it might be German. I have seen other German pottery, usually salt glazed, with a heraldic motif and the lack of a St George’s Cross may be due to the fact that although a white-on-red version was used in Germany’s 12th century crusades and adopted by Emperor Frederick II it fell out of use with the dissolution of his dynasty after his death in 1250.

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St. George slaying the Dragon Relief Moulded 19th Century Jug

With no distinguishing marks it is impossible to date the jug but the amount of wear and tear points to it being a 19th century piece. Its size leads me to think that it could be for beer as I can picture it brimming with froth at the Oktoberfest but it could equally be part of a wash stand set although the subject matter seems out of character for a bedroom setting, unless, of course, you live in a medieval castle.

I would love to know if anyone has more concrete detail about the jug’s provenance and if you do or you have any other comments please get in touch via the Contacts page.

[William Morris fans may like to know that the illustration of the dragon slayer is by Hilda Hechle, and the quote from Stories from The Earthly Paradise published by Edward Arnold in 1915.]