Saturday, 12 December 2020

Saturday 12th December - St George and Una

 I'm not sure I'm up to all this passion and excitement, and we're only half way through Snogvent.  All the fence snogging and general connubial wrestling aside, I think I better go for something a little more restrained and classy today.  Don't worry, this turn towards tastefulness won't last long, so let's enjoy it while it lasts...

St George in Armour being kissed by Una (1914) Phoebe and Hilda Traquair

Blimey, but I do love Phoebe Traquair (1852-1936). As you will no doubt remember from this post, I live quite near a church decorated by her, despite not living anywhere near Scotland. Her work is gorgeously delicate and gloriously romantic and this embroidered panel is no different. This work was completed with her daughter Hilda (1879-1964), who figured in her mother's art long before she was a partner in it...

Hilda, aged 5 (1884)

Look at the little flower!  Bless.  Anyway, after doing exceptionally well at the Edinburgh School Art of Art (can you imagine the pressure to be good at art?), Hilda joined creative forces with her mum for a series of silk embroidered panels based on The Redcrosse Knight (St George) in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590).  I always thought that St George's love-interest was Princess Sabra because of images like this...

St George and Princess Sabra (1862) Dante Gabriel Rossetti

There are many and varied portrayals of the unlucky Princess Sabra in Pre-Raphaelite art, and the story is very similar to Andromeda and Perseus.  Sabra (who sounds like she was named after the latest Ford -  when I was in a new mum's group, there was a lass there whose son was called 'Orion', 'Like the stars, not the cars' she clarified, handily) is the princess of a land that is being terrorised by a dragon and she draws the short straw to be a sacrifice.  Luckily, along come St George, who kills the dragon and gets the girl.  That also has a slight echo, albeit unhappily, in the Biblical heroine Jephthah's daughter, who ends up being the sacrifice after King Jephthah vows to offer up the first thing he sees on his arrival home from a successful battle. Princesses do tend to end up as collateral damage in stories, and they don't always get rescued.   T'uh...

Jephthah's Vow: The Martyr (1885-6) Edwin Long

Not a happy ending there then, and definitely no kissing, so we won't worry about that. Anyway, back to Princess Sabra, and there is definitely lots of kissing there because I think you would be awful grateful to anyone who stops you being eaten by a dragon.  I do wonder about the logic of handing over someone to be eaten by a monster, as if that will stop them eating everyone else.  Looking at the winsome little wisps of girls that are often offered up to the horrible beasties, I don't think they would satisfy its appetite at all.  I don't mean to boast but I reckon that if a monster ate me, it would slow him down for ages, at least long enough for everyone else to escape.  I am built to give mythical monsters terrible indigestion and they would need a proper sit down and a snooze afterwards.  I'd also raise their cholesterol by so much it would probably kill them.  You're welcome. As my daughter would say, that's a weird flex, so I'll move on...

They Fared Forth Upon Their Dreadfil Quest (1914)

Una and the Redcrosse Knight are both characters in The Faerie Queene and although the upshot of the quest is the same (knight kills dragon), how we get there and what it means is somewhat altered.  Una, the Princess of the land terrorised by the dragon, saddles up alongside the Knight and joins him on the quest (like Samwise and Frodo, or Han Solo and Chewbacca.  Possibly not the second one).  Obviously Una represents the True Church and she also defeats the evil Catholic Church, no-one likes Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth is great.  Boy meets Girl, Girl turns out to be Protestantism and defeats Catholicism, Boy and Girl galumph home after killing a metaphorical dragon, it's a tad cliche...

St George Kills the Dragon, Una Prays (1914)

When it comes to actual dragon slaying, that's a boy job, apparently.  Even if girls are brave enough to come on heroic quests, there is no big spear for them. The words at the top of the embroidery read that while Una prayed, St George 'pierced that false tongue'.  Does that mean the dragon spreads salacious rumours? 'I've heard Mrs Scoggins has been shoplifting again... Mr Smith starts drinking creme-de-menthe at noon... Beryl Jenkins passes off shop-bought cake as home-made...'  Honestly, the dragon had it coming.


Anyway, Una is so impressed with the way St George does in dragons that she goes in for a kiss.  Maybe she really likes men who do in massive malevolent reptiles.  Now, I understand having a type - honestly there is nothing more sexy than a man with a book in his hand (especially if it's one that I've written) but I'm not sure I'm with her on the whole dragon-killing thing.  Mind you, she makes a perfect match for St George, who is all about the dragon-killing and so I wish them every happiness. A bit messy though, but that's love for you.

See you tomorrow...

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