MASO DI BANCO
(active 1320-50 in Firenze)

The Miracle of the Dragon

c. 1335
Fresco, width 534 cm
Cappella di Bardi di Vernio, Santa Croce, Florence

The scene at the bottom of the south wall shows the Miracle of the Dragon. Of the scenes in the chapel, this is the most often discussed.

Two men were killed at the Roman Forum by the breath of a dragon, here read as the symbol of religious ignorance. Sylvester closed the dragon's throat so it would cause no further harm and he then revived the victims, much to the amazement of onlookers. In the fresco, the Roman Forum is rendered not as it looked in the fourth century when the scene occurred, but in its ruinous state of the 14th century when Maso painted it. The unoccupied buildings in the background, the dilapidated, cracked walls in which grass is growing and the marble rubble in front of the dragon's cave give visual expression to the decline of the ancient world. The fragment of a pier arcade and the one standing column nevertheless serve to remind us of the greatness and beauty of its architecture.




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