Apparition of the Virgin to St. Anthony and St. George

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Pisanello, Apparition of the Virgin to St. Anthony and St. George, 1455


Antonio di Puccio Pisanello's Apparition of the Virgin to St. Anthony and St. George strayed away from uniform religious paintings of the 15th century. He incorporated seemingly modern elements to St. George's (right) sterling armor, making him seem more vibrant and unique in comparison to the somberly hued St. Anthony (left). St. George is shown with the slain dragon at his feet, a reoccurring symbol when depicting him in religious works. St. Anthony wields his common items of the bell and hog. The heavy contrast the two saints staged in front a dark forest and positioned beneath the radiating sun bearing the Virgin and Child makes this work powerful yet not overwhelming.

The representation of these two figures in the forefront of the paintings provides more insight based on their colors. Michael Baxandall states colors in paintings follow a system in which they symbolize various aspects. Brown and black mean humility, which works well with St. Anthony who devoted his life to putting those less fortune ahead of him, assisting the sick and poor. His inner cloths are red, which is charity according to the color code. St. George is dressed in the white/silver, meaning purity, and highlighted in yellow-gold representing dignity. And above, as expected, the Virgin cloaked in white shows her purity, with baby Jesus wrapped in yellow.

The major component that makes this work special is in the positioning of the figures. According to Baxandall, Pisano hailed from northern Italy, where the style of art slightly differed. The layout of the figures were suppose to create a spiral. Pisano does this by slightly offsetting St. Anthony and showing more of St. George's back. The way the two face each other creates a circular movement. Spectators during this period were accustomed to seeing a composition incorporating such technique, but in comparison to religious art stemming from Byzantine, this was ground breaking development.

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