TURA, Cosmè
(b. ca. 1430, Ferrara, d. 1495, Ferrara)

St George and the Princess

Tempera on canvas, 349 x 305 cm
Museo del Duomo, Ferrara

In 1469 the cover of the organ of the Cathedral in Ferrara was painted by Tura. The Annunciation was visible in the closed state of the organ, while in the open state the panel representing St George and the Dragon was shown. The cover of the organ was transferred to the Museum in 1735.

The organ frontal for the Cathedral must serve as an introduction to the painter, although he was about thirty-nine years old when it was finished and obviously a fully formed painter. The shutters were painted with tempera, although Tura seems frequently to have employed oils as well. They are emotionally charged, full of movement and intense expressionism. In the St George the frightened princess, placed close to the picture plane, moves swiftly to the left of the single canvas she occupies. Her fluttering, irregular draperies with decisive hills and valleys are carefully studied, but they do not follow the structure of her body or even her pose, becoming instead alive and rebelliously independent of the forms they hide.

Light is effectively rendered as an expressive device without becoming a particularly naturalistic component, striking here and there, helter-skelter, although a certain concentration on the left may be isolated. Highlights are also found on the right-hand edges of forms, especially in the canvas showing St George impaling the dragon. Color is equally antinaturalistic. The tight-fitting leather costume of the saint is outlined, pale maroon against a golden sky. His gray horse, ferociously participating in the confrontation, is accentuated by a calligraphic arrangement of thin red straps. There are strong echoes of Mantegna, perhaps in part filtered through Squarcione, in motives like the rendering of the winding trail with figures on the hill behind the princess and a tight application of paint, which permits abundant minuscule detail. Critics have called attention to connections with later Donatello, especially with his reliefs made for nearby Padua. These are difficult to isolate within the personal expressive idiom of the St George, except for the shared intensity in treating sacred figures and narratives.