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This is one of a number of watercolours by Rossetti illustrating the legend of St George. Having killed the dragon, St George washes the blood from his hands in his upturned helmet. He watches through the window as a crowd carries the dragon's head in triumph. Typically, Rossetti makes the public celebration subordinate to the interaction between St George and Princess Sabra whose life he saved. In an intimate and disturbing scene, she kneels kissing his bloodied hands. Elizabeth Siddall, whom Rossetti had married in 1860, modelled for Princess Sabra, only days before taking an overdose of laudanum.

August 2004