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New Research on Art in Fifteenth-Century Naples / Nuove ricerche sull’arte del Quattrocento a Napoli




Jan van Eyck’s Saint George and the Dragon between Bruges and Naples


This essay traces the story of a panel painting of Saint George and the Dragon made by Jan van Eyck that traveled overland and by sea from Bruges, to Valencia, to Barcelona, and on to Naples, where it arrived at the newly established court of Alfonso of Aragon in summer 1445. Through close study of the textual and material evidence that the picture, now lost, left along the way, the essay follows the journey of an object in motion, traveling within a real and imagined network of people, artworks, and artistic technologies. It shows that the painting’s actual and remembered movement across space generated meaning when the panel arrived in Naples in 1445, in particular in relation to Alfonso’s own political trajectory from Spain to Italy and his capture of Naples in a victory that he attributed in part to Saint George. It proposes that the panel’s significance in its immediate reception at Alfonso’s court in Naples was informed by the painting’s very subject and pictorial structure. Finally, the essay suggests that these aspects of the picture also informed its reception in the early art historical literature in ever-evolving accounts of the invention of oil painting and the artistic dynamics between Naples, Italy, and northern Europe.