The Temptation of Saint Anthony
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cschuster's picture

Sr. Contributor

This was Paul Cézanne's third attempt at painting St. Anthony's sinful sojourn. Obviously, Cézanne had something on his mind.

Cézanne was really into eroticism and murder. He once told an art dealer, "I'm only a painter. Parisian wit gives me a pain. Painting nudes on the banks of the [river] is all I could ask for." No word on whether this was in answer to the question, "Why do you keep telling us about your boner?" There's a lot to unpack there, sure, but everyone knows Cézanne was that beautiful mind mixture of loony and horny. The real question is why the baby in the corner of this painting is levitating. Furthermore, how in the hell are the babies tempting Saint Anthony here? The devil must be in the middle of one freaky pitch.

Saint Anthony is of one of the most popular painterly subjects in collective memory. From Bosch to Dali, every heavyweight wants to depict this fight. The story starts with Anthony at age 18. And he don't know what he wants. His parents die. And then...he knows what he wants. He gives away his money, sends his sister to a nunnery, and runs off to the desert to contemplate the big G-O-D. Normal teenage rebellion stuff. Then the devil takes notice and tries to sway him to sin. Throws skin diseases, boredom, and boobies his way. Anthony resists every temptation and conquers the devil by having himself sealed inside a cave behind a comically large boulder. That'll do, Anthony. That'll do.

This work was gifted to the d'Orsay in order to offset the tax on the giver's inheritance. It's a quite common way for larger museums in France to receive important pieces. Through this avenue, the d'Orsay has received some of arts greatest hits. Like Courbet's Origin of the World, and Monet's Luncheon on the Grass. Although, based on these examples, the mind ponders whether the folks giving away these high caliber paintings don't just want to avoid awkward questions as to why Grandma left them finely wrought pornography. Because Grandma's gross, that's why, and now all your friends know.

mhoutzager's picture


The devil is making his pitch directly to St. Anthony.

Devil: C'mon Tony, just look at her all ready to go! The little chubby boys don't care, and no one ever needs to know. You know you want it. Just say the word and I'll make it happen.

St Anthony: 'O, no, no! I can't! I won't! Please stop!

Devil: What's the matter, don't like women? Is this one too tall, too short, too skinny, too fat, too French?

St Anthony (under his breath): Must...resist...must think of something unappealing...Mother Teresa naked on a cold day, Mother Teresa naked on a cold day...