Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

The Temptation of Saint Anthony Abbot (Image #2)

  • Title: Temptation of Saint Anthony (Image #1)
  • Creator: Lathem, Lieven van, painter (Image #1);
    Master of the Osservanza, painter (Image #2)
  • Description:

    These two scenes depict St. Anthony’s temptation. He was a third century desert hermit in Egypt who was credited as the founder of Christian monasticism. In the image on the left, Anthony is seated, holding a Bible and a rosary. He looks up at what appears to be a beautiful woman offering him a golden chalice. She is elegantly dressed, and looks human, except for her clawed feet which signal a demonic presence. St. Anthony’s iconographic swine peeks out at the devil. In the second illumination, Anthony returns to his desert hut. As he approaches his dwelling, he turns around to discover a young woman standing behind him. Her pink wings, folded behind her back, signal that she is actually a demon. In this illumination, Anthony is haloed.

    In her work on monastic masculinity, Jacqueline Murray asserts that many medieval monks retained their masculine identities by portraying themselves as heroic warriors locked in combat with intense bodily desires. Murray’s work offers insight into how St. Anthony functions as a symbol of chaste monastic masculinity: even in the face of repeated temptation, Anthony combats his needs for pleasure and comfort, to triumph over the devil’s seductive invitation. Anthony’s hard-fought victory portrays a type of male strength that monks pursued, and was viewed by many as manly within a system that excluded them from displaying traditional markers of masculinity.

    The image on the left was painted by Lieven van Lathem in a small prayer book made for Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy (1467-1477). Every page is decorated, and the book features thirty-seven large miniatures. Van Lathem worked for numerous noble patrons in Flanders. His illustrations are characterized by vivid colors, an emphasis on bright light and inviting landscapes with pruned trees and splendid churches. The image on the right was painted by the Sienese artist known as the Master of the Osservanza and is one of eight surviving altarpiece panels dedicated to St. Anthony. The panels are scattered in museums in the United States (Metropolitan Museum, National Gallery of Art and Yale) and in Berlin (Staatliche Museen). Scholars see Florentine influence in the artist's work and praise his narrative innovations and treatment of landscape. Various artists have been suggested as the Master of the Osservanza, but current thinking inclines toward the young Sano di Pietro.

    Both of the illuminations depict Saint Anthony garbed in the black robe of the Hospitallers, a medieval order that adopted Anthony as their patron saint. The order established hospitals to treat the sick and poor, particularly in cities. The order had the permission of the Pope to raise swine as a method of supporting their organization. Townspeople would donate the runts of the litters to the Hospitallers, who would then release the pigs into the city where they would thrive by begging. When grown, the Hospitallers would slaughter them for pork and lard. As a result of this, Saint Anthony is often depicted with a porcine companion.

  • Source: Wikimedia Commons (Images #1 and #2)
  • Rights: Public domain (Images #1 and #2)
  • Subject (See Also): Anthony of Egypt, Saint Chastity Devil Hagiography Masculinity Monks Sexuality
  • Geographic Area: Italy (Image #2)
    Low Countries (Image #1)
  • Century: 15 (Images #1 and #2)
  • Date: 1469 (Image #1)
    Circa 1435-1440 (Image #2)
  • Related Work: Prayer Book of Charles the Bold, digitized pages from the J. Paul Getty Museum.
    St. Margaret, Prayer Book of Charles the Bold, Ms. 37 (89.ML.35), fol. 49v.
    Saint Anthony panel #1, Mass of Saint Anthony Abbas, Berlin, Gemäldegalerie of the Staatliche Museen, 63D.
    Saint Anthony panel #2, Saint Anthony Distributing His Wealth to the Poor, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1952.5.20.
    Saint Anthony panel #3, Saint Anthony Leaving His Monastery, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1952.5.21.
    Saint Anthony panel #4, The Temptation of Saint Anthony Abbot, New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, 1871.57.
    Saint Anthony panel #5, Saint Anthony Abbot Tormented by Demons, New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, 1871.58.
    Saint Anthony panel #6, Saint Anthony the Abbot in the Wilderness [also known as Saint Anthony Tempted by a Heap of Gold], New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.1.27.
    Saint Anthony panel #7, The Meeting of Saint Anthony and Saint Paul, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1939.1.293.
    Saint Anthony panel #8, The Death of Saint Anthony, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1952.5.73.
    Buonamico Buffalmacco, Tebaide, detail of the devil, disguised as a female pilgrim, trying to seduce Saint Anthony, Pisa, Monumental Cemetery, circa 1343.
  • Current Location: Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, Prayer Book of Charles the Bold, Ms. 37 (89.ML.35), fol. 33 (Image #1)
    New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery,1871.57 (Image #2)
  • Original Location: Antwerp (illuminated), Belgium; Ghent (written), Belgium (Image #1)
    Siena, Italy (Image #2)
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital Images; Manuscript Illuminations; (Image #1)
    Digital Images; Paintings; (Image #2)
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Parchment; Paint; Gold; Silver; (Image #1)
    Wood panel; Tempera; Gold; (Image #2)
  • Donor: Layman; Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy (1433-1477). As the son of Philip the Good, he continued a tradition of luxury book commissions with this elaborately decorated, small prayer book. (Image #1)
    Layman (?); The arms of the Martinozzi family appear in the second panel in the series in which the young Anthony distributes alms to the poor. The Martinozzi were prominent in Sienese government. There are indications that the altarpiece was intended for an Augustinian church. (Image #2)
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 12.4 (Image #1)
    36.9 (Image #2)
    /9.2 (Image #1)
    38.8 (Image #2)
  • Inscription:
  • Related Resources: Bisogni, Fabio. "Il culto e l'iconografia di S. Antonio abate a Siena." La Misericordia di Siena attraverso i secoli: dalla Domus Misericordiae all'Arciconfraternita di Misericordia. Edited by Mario Ascheri and Patrizia Turrini. Protagon Editori Toscani, 2004. Pages 177-189;
    Dean, Clay M. A Selection of Early Italian Paintings from the Yale University Art Gallery. Yale University Art Gallery, 2003;
    Jaritz, Gerhard. Angels, Devils: The Supernatural and Its Visual Representation. Central European University Press, 2011;
    McKendrick, Scot. "Painting in Manuscripts of Vernacular Texts, circa 1467–1485", Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe. Edited by Thomas Kren and Scot McKendrick. J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003. Pages 239-245;
    Schryver, Antoine de, and Jessica Berenbeim. The Prayer Book of Charles the Bold: A Study of a Flemish Masterpiece from the Burgundian Court. J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008;