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Uccello had a long life, but he was not a I prolific artist and his surviving output is small. It is also, for the most part, badly documented, so the chronology of his works ff is uncertain. All his known paintings date from his maturity and the majority show his preoccupation with perspective. The most spectacular demonstration of Uccello's interest in the subject comes in his three large panels representing The Battle of San Romano, in which even one of the corpses has died in accordance with the rules of perspective. The Hunt at Night shows Uccello handling a similar array of horses and figures in a more intimate manner.
Secular subjects such as these played a remarkably large part in Uccello's work at a time when religion still dominated the arts. The Flood is Uccello's most impressive religious painting, the violent perspective recession helping to create a sense of drama. St George and the Dragon is more lighthearted, reconciling Uccello's scientific Renaissance outlook with medieval fantasy.
Uccello's fresco is one of a series of Old Testament subjects by various painters in the Chiostro Verde (Green Cloister) of Santa Maria Novella. The cloister takes its name from the fact that the frescoes were painted predominantly in a pigment called terra verde (green earth). Uccello has shown two stages from the story of Noah in one scene. On the left, the Ark is afloat and desperate figures try to cling to it to escape the mass destruction; on the right, the Ark has come to rest and Noah leans out of a window as the dove returns with the twig signifying it has found dry land. The heavily draped figure in the foreground has not been satisfactorily identified.
This and the two companion panels (pp.1074 and 1076) depicting a Florentine victory over the Sienese in 1432 were painted for the Medici Palace in Florence, but at some unknown date they were dispersed and are now in three different galleries. In this scene, Niccolo da Tolentino, mounted on a white charger, resists the Sienese attack.
The central figure in this panel is probably the Sienese commander, Bernardino della Carda, who is shown being unhorsed. As in the previous scene, the broken weapons in the foreground recede neatly in perspective, and Uccello has depicted several of the horses in deliberately difficult poses to show off his skill in foreshortening.
In the third of his battle panels, Uccello shows Michelotto do Cotignola (on the black horse) leading the Florentine counter-attack that clinched the victory against the Sienese. The massed lances give the painting much of its feeling of movement and together with the fantastic headgear and heraldic trappings, .form energetic abstract patterns.
This is the second of two paintings of St George and the Dragon by Uccello, and there can have been few more enchanting depictions of the myth. It is painted on canvas, which was still an unusual material at the time in Italy, and probably dates from late in the artist's career. Uccello has compressed two incidents from the story into one scene, for the princess is attached to the dragon by a sort of dog-leash (in fact, it is her girdle), which alludes to its having been led docilely by her after St George had defeated it. Uccello's love of pattern comes out in the dragon's wings, as well as in the formalized depiction of the landscape and the clouds.
This is one of Uccello's most original and imaginative paintings. Vasari records that Uccello 'always loved painting animals' and his delight clearly conies through in this captivating work. The sleek and highly stylized dogs, in particular, create a thoroughly convincing impression of darting energy and speed. The shape of the panel indicates that it may once have been a panel from a cassone a chest given as a wedding present or in which a bride kept her dowry.
Writer – Marshall Cavendish