Temptation of Saint Anthony in visual arts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Matthias Grünewald, inner right wing of the Isenheim Altarpiece depicting the Temptation of St. Anthony, 1512-1516 (oil on panel)

The Temptation of Saint Anthony is an often-repeated subject in history of art and literature, concerning the supernatural temptation reportedly faced by Saint Anthony the Great during his sojourn in the Egyptian desert. Anthony's temptation is first discussed by Athanasius of Alexandria, Anthony's contemporary, and from then became a popular theme in Western culture.

The earliest work to depict Saint Anthony being assaulted by demons is a wall painting in the atrium of Santa Maria Antiqua of the 10th century.[1] The later European Middle Ages saw the accumulation of the theme in book illumination and later in German woodcuts. About 1500 originated the famous paintings of Martin Schöngauer (ca. 1470), Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1505) and Mathias Grünewald (1512-1516). In the modern era the theme has been treated by the Spanish painter Salvador Dalí and the French author Gustave Flaubert, who considered his 1874 book The Temptation of Saint Anthony to be his master work.

In 1946 the David L. Loew-Albert Lewin film production company held a contest for a painting on the theme of Saint Anthony's Temptation, with the winner to be used in the film The Private Affairs of Bel Ami. Various artists produced paintings on this subject, and contest was won by Max Ernst, whose work was duly shown in the film. However, the most well-known of these paintings is a failed contestant, Salvador Dalí's version.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jean Michel Massing (1984). "Schongauer's 'Tribulations of St Anthony': Its Iconography and Influence on German Art". Print Quarterly. 1 (4): 226. JSTOR 41823641.