Artworks
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
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cschuster's picture

Sr. Contributor

All Anthony wants to do is Bible and chill solo, but Satan's like, "Nah, I'm coming over."

'Cause no matter what, Devil's always going to make time for messing with Saint Anthony. Teniers' special move with this subject was showing the part of the Saint Anthony's story that doesn't get a lot of press (excepting the whole part where he abandons his sister in a nunnery to go on his spirit journey, of course). This painting shows the eponymous saint entombed in a cave, ready to kick back and read the Bible until he dies. But then the Devil does some grand larceny and starts pestering Anthony to pay attention. 

Here, Teniers cribs off of Flaubert's famous novelization of Saint Anthony's story. The guy with the parsnip in his hat (#fashiongoals) and the leathery claws for a hand (#lifegoals) is named Hilarion. Flaubert casts him as an alias for Satan in his Mephistopheles mode (which means he's on the hunt for individual souls). And all Hilarion wants is for Anthony to drink from his chalice of knowledge, guaranteeing that he'll think about something besides God. It doesn't matter what Anthony thinks about, so long as it's not God. 

There's several versions of this same story by Teniers in museums across Europe. This particular one doesn't have the joust scene between lizard creatures in tin can knight costumes. However, this one does have Reginald, the name I'm giving the pig creature in the back, crying out for attention. Someone just give Reggie a hug, please.

Also, the Tesla-esque T on Anthony's shoulder doesn't stand for Teniers. It's an alternate design for the boring old Christian cross based off the Greek letter tau, called Saint Anthony's cross. It's to remind you what the painting's about in case you forgot a few seconds after looking at the placard. Which, if that did happen, please go to the hospital. Excuse my French, but you're in France. Healthcare's free! I'm just saying.