This is Zurbaran’s depiction of St. Margaret of Antioch 1630-4
One has to look hard to discover the dragon in this painting. The dragon represents the devil who legend has it St. Margaret overcame. The focus is all on St. Margaret apart from the title of the painting one could be forgiven for not guessing at once that she is a saint having none of the traditional dress or symbols normally associated with saint hood. Instead Zurbaran depicts her in the traditional Spanish dress of the region of Seville. She holds in her hand a Shepherd’s crook. The legend had it that she looked after her nurse’s sheep.
Depictions of saints were normally commissioned in groups and painted by Zurbaran’s assistants by in this case the work is signed and the surface detail is very characteristic of Zurbaran. Zurbaran quite clearly relishes capturing the surface textural detail from the saddle bag to the curling wide-brimmed straw hat. It was indeed an exciting challenge to try to capture all these different textures at a resent friday talk and draw session at The National Gallery.