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History of the painting

detail of the lower half of the painting, showing a dragon with 3 heads twisting around St Michael's armoured legs

Detail of the triple-headed dragon from the painting

This is what we knew about the history of this painting of 'St Michael and the Dragon' before we started our technical investigations.

Who does the painting represent?

The painting shows St Michael, one of the Archangels who defended Heaven and protected good Christians, attacking a triple-headed dragon symbolising the Devil. The warrior saint was a particularly popular image in 15th century northern Spain, which until 1492 was fighting against Muslim forces based in Granada in the south. Another important 15th century picture of the saint was painted in 1468 by the Spanish artist Bartolomé Bermejo (about 1440 -after 1495) and is now in the National Gallery, London.

Have a look at Bartolomé Bermejo's painting 'Saint Michael triumphant over the Devil' on the National Gallery's website.

The provenance of the painting

The painting was bought in 1919 by William Hesketh Lever, the founder of the Lady Lever Art Gallery, along with six other Spanish paintings, from an auction of the collection of Sir Francis Beaufort Palmer (1845-1917), a noted company lawyer and collector. Palmer had owned it since at least 1913 when it was said to “have recently come from Spain” and to be in early Catalan style.

Possible identification of the artist

In the 1970s experts suggested that the painting might be by the father and son team of Miguel and Juan Jiménez, who worked around 1462-1505 in Zaragoza, in north-eastern Spain, in what was then the Kingdom of Aragon. The identification was made because it was considered to be similar to another painting of ‘St Michael’ by Miguel Jiménez in the Philadelphia Art Museum. However the similarities between the two paintings are now thought to be only superficial.