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Hieronymus Bosch

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Gothic and Early Renaissance
 
 
 
Hieronymus Bosch
 
 
 
The Triumph of the Saint
 
 

Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (left wing)
1505-06
Oil on panel, 131,5 x 53 cm
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

The life of St Anthony is a recurring theme in Bosch's work. Although all attributions are to a degree doubtful, this triptych is generally accepted as one of Bosch's finest late works. St Anthony, as described in the Lives of the Fathers and the Golden Legends - two of the main sources for the lives of the early churchmen and the Church, both available in Bosch's day - was a notable example of the overriding need for all humankind to resist the temptations of the world, to be at all times suspicious that things may not be what they seem and to learn that failure to recognize this may lead to damnation. This panel shows that while at prayer St Anthony is attacked by demons, who beat him and leave him for dead. In the central episode of the panel he is rescued by two hermits dressed in the garments of the Antonite Order. The fourth figure in the group, it has been convincingly argued, is a self-portrait. At the top of the panel St Anthony has returned to the desert in which he lives, where he is again attacked by demons, who toss him high in the air.


Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (left wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (left wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (left wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon


Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (left wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon


Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (left wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon


Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (right wing)
1505-06
Oil on panel, 131,5 x 53 cm
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

While leading a life of meditation in the desert, the Saint was pursued by one of the most powerful of all the temptresses. In the Garden of Eden the Fall of Man began with Eve and the awareness of sexual attraction as she and Adam became conscious of their naked bodies. The Devil Queen appears to Anthony naked and shielding her pubic area with a coy, self-conscious attraction. Anthony averts his eyes, only to have them fall on a devil's feast to which he is being beckoned. In the background the Devil Queen's fair city stands ready to welcome him should he turn again. The dragon fighting a human in the moat and the flames erupting from the round tower suggest the disguised hell from which the Devil Queen has come. The Dutch windmill, an incongruous note, is a reminder of ergotism, an illness caused by rotten grain and known as St Anthony's Fire, as well as an indication of the deceptive possibilities of the mundane and ordinary.


Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (right wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (right wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon




Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (right wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (right wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (right wing - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

 
 

Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (central panel)
1505-06
Oil on panel, 131,5 x 119 cm
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

St Anthony was born in Egypt about AD 250. When he reached maturity he sold all his possessions and retreated into the Egyptian desert, where for the next 20 years he followed a life of dedicated Christian contemplation in total seclusion in an old ruin on the top of a hill. In 305 he was persuaded to leave the wilderness and with some companions he formed the first monastery, and thus is regarded as the founder of the monastic idea. Living in isolation in the desert had not meant that he avoided the temptations of all the deadly sins, but his sturdy resistance made him a great example for Bosch and his contemporaries. In this splendid, richly painted panel St Anthony is shown centrally placed and surrounded by images of the great sins depicted with Bosch's mature, uniquely inventive vision. When St Anthony was over 100 years old he visited Alexandria for a disputation with the Arians, but, anticipating his death, soon returned to his desert home, where he died in 365.


Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (central panel - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (central panel - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (central panel - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon


Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (central panel - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (central panel - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon



Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (central panel - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon


Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony (central panel - detail)
1505-06
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

 
 
 

 
 
 
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