Leonardo's Dragons-The "rider Fighting a Dragon" Sketch as an Allegory of Leonardo's Concept of Knowledge

Sharon Khalifa-Gueta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has long been known that Leonardo da Vinci's sketches showing a rider in combat with a dragon do not portray St. George. Viewing these sketches in connection with several of Leonardo's writings, this essay suggests that they are allegories that should be interpreted on several levels. On the basic level, these combat scenes represent the battle of contraries, based on the symbolism common to Leonardo's period where a combat between an equestrian and a dragon represented the clash of light versus darkness, life versus death, good versus evil, etc. However, I argue that they also comment on the scientific and philosophical issues that occupied Leonardo, including action versus reaction and the true concept of knowledge as opposed to falsehood and sophistry. This essay interprets these sketches as offering an insight into Leonardo's analogical approach, which connects common symbolism to his personal perspective on science and philosophy, and thus points to a new way of looking at Leonardo's drawings and paintings and decodes new aspects of Leonardo's personal symbolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-139
Number of pages36
JournalExplorations in Renaissance culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • contraries
  • dragon
  • knowledge
  • rider

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Music
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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