St George and the Hidden Dragon

Today is St George’s Day, and we’re busy installing our next exhibition, Hidden Heritage: Mrs Stirling, Old Battersea House and the De Morgan Collection. One of the key exhibits in the exhibition is this rather wonderful decorated cabinet:

Made of black stained ebonised oak, the cabinet has fine carving and gilded highlights on its six turned legs. The sides feature floral inlaid motifs in ebony, padoak, box and maple. On the front is an oil painted panel, decorated by William De Morgan with a scene of St George and the dragon. Here’s a closer look (click for a larger image):

St George kneels proudly before the king, as the defeated dragon trails behind. As we were moving this rather substantial cabinet into our temporary exhibition space, we noted how appropriate it was for today. We then discovered that the cabinet harbours a second, concealed dragon. Did you spot him in the first picture?

 

When viewed from the side, a row of inlaid triangles form a menacing row of teeth, and the top of the cabinet forms the contours of a dragon’s face, with bulging eye, flared nostril and snout. We see this cabinet daily, and are familiar with all its details, but never before had we noticed this hidden dragon, which now seems so prominent and deliberate. It’s such a wonderful addition to an already stunning piece of Arts and Crafts furniture, and we look forward to updating our catalogue with this new information!

What a treat to discover this delightful detail on this day, St George’s Day. Be sure to come along to our new exhibition to see this cabinet, along with other wonderful works of art from Old Battersea House. Here are a few more fantastical dragons of De Morgan's own design:

  

Emma Coleman, Museum Officer