Artwork - The Red Cross Knight Overcoming the Dragon

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  • Title: The Red Cross Knight Overcoming the Dragon
  • Artist: George Frederic Watts
  • Date: 1853--
  • Medium: Fresco painting
  • Categories: British history
  • Catalogue number: WOA 2883
  • Description: Fresco painting by Watts illustrating a scene from Spenser\'s \'Faerie Queene\', Book I, Canto II: The Red Cross Knight Overcoming the Dragon.

    Edmund Spenser\'s long allegorical poem The Faerie Queen was completed in the 1590s. The illustration here is taken from Canto XI, which tells the story of the Red Cross Knight. He kills a dragon which has long terrorised a country for some years, with its king and queen walled up in their castle for four years in fear. He stands upon the carcass of the dragon. Una, the only daughter of the monarch, and the personification of truth throughout the poem, has been liberated by the Red Cross Knight and holds him by the hand. Around them the people stand rejoicing. A mother restrains one of her children from getting too close to the jaws of the dead dragon. Behind them come “maidens sounding their sweet timbrels” and the aged king and queen.

    Originally named the Poets Hall the Upper Waiting Hall was a hotbed of activity between 1848 and 1854 as six artists competed with each other to paint scenes from some of Britain\'s greatest literature. The Hall was a space in which artists without previous experience in the technique could develop and learn the medium of fresco whilst observed by the Fine Arts Commission. The artists were selected having displayed work in the Westminster Hall exhibitions. As a result of a number of technical problems, the paintings were subject to damage and decay to such an extent that in 1894 they were hidden from view behind wooden panelling. Conservation has since taken place saving the paintings and allowing them to once again be viewed and appreciated.

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