Saint Margaret of Antioch

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The fourth-century saint Margaret of Antioch was cast out by her father, a pagan priest, when she converted to Christianity. She was left to fend for herself tending sheep. She’s dressed as a wealthy shepherdess, with a lambskin jacket over her picturesque costume and a straw hat fashionably cocked on her head. Zurbarán shows her holding a crook and a prayer book, with a colourful saddlebag – of a type made by peasant weavers – over one arm. The saint seems oblivious to the snarling dragon – Satan in disguise – at her feet; she gazes directly towards us with a sober, determined expression. According to the Golden Legend, a medieval compilation of saints' biographies, the beast devoured her. She burst from its belly unharmed and later assumed the role of patron saint of childbirth.

The National Gallery, London



Saint Margaret of Antioch




Oil on canvas


H 163 x W 105 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1903

Work type



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