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The Temptation of St. Anthony

Todd Powelson
Matthias Grünewald - 1515

The story of St. Anthony the Great is certainly strange. One thing is for sure, it inspired a large number of very unique and strange paintings.

The legend of Anthony goes back almost 1700 years, and was first written down by Athanasius of Alexandria some time around 350 A.D. The book he wrote is called The Life of Anthony and it became one of the most well known stories of the Middle Ages.

Schöngauer - 1480

The book begins with Anthony being born into a wealthy Egyptian family. When he was 35 or so Anthony decided to follow the words of Jesus, gave away his worldly possession, and moved out into the desert to become a hermit monk. This made the Devil mad, so the Devil caused Anthony to be bored, lazy, and sent visions of phantom women. Anthony was able to overcome boredom, phantom women and the Devil through prayer. Of course, this only made the Devil even more angry, so the Devil went out into the desert and beat Anthony senseless. When Anthony recovered he moved into an old abandoned Roman fort. Well, the Devil was still pretty ticked and sent a bunch of wild animals after Anthony, but the Lord was on Anthony’s side so he just laughed. His laughter caused all of the animals to turn tail and run away. The Devil was scared off and didn’t trouble Anthony any more (well, didn’t cause as much trouble).

Leonora Carrington - 1947

A very interesting story, and I can see why so many artists have drawn it over the years. It is a playground for the imagination, and many of the artists shown here have used this story to help inspire some of their most creative and bizarre artwork. For instance, why did Diego Rivera choose to portray Anthony’s Temptations the way he did (below)? I have no idea, but I know I like it!

wikipedia | Temptation of St. Anthony

Dali - 1946
Diego Rivera - 1947
Max Ernst - 1945
Todd Powelson
Todd Powelson works as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Visual Artist.

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