The Temptation of St. Anthony

Sr. Contributor

Get ready to thank Henri Fantin-Latour for a really gross orgy. 

The story of Saint Anthony's terrible, no good, very bad stroll through the desert is one of those scenes that just keeps popping up throughout artdom. Saint Anthony was an Egyptian monk famous for taking a road trip (on foot) through the desert for some bonding time with the big guy in the sky. The devil caught notice and tried to throw Anthony off track by doing everything from tossing some witchy strange his way, to making him painfully bored. Anthony ended the sojourn by having himself confined in a cave with a cartoonishly large boulder rolled in front of it, à la Wile. E. Coyote. 

Fantin-Latour, obviously, is a little more concerned with finding out just how much strange Anthony could ignore before giving in, throwing off the robe, and being told to take a shower and prune the hedges before anything would happen. He is a hermit hiking through the desert, after all. Sure, they're hell-spawned witches. But the guy's probably desperate.

Before coming to Tokyo, Fantin-Latour's painting had quite the ride under the stewardship of shipping magnate Kojiro Matsukata. He had a dream to bring some of the greatest hits of Western art to his home country when World War II hit. His massive collection was split between a London warehouse and storage in the Rodin Museum in Paris. The London warehouse burnt to the ground just before the start of the War. 

In 1951, the French government confiscated his paintings in Paris as a sweet deal included in the Peace of San Francisco. A few years later the French reconsidered, deeming their actions "a total dick move." The confiscated art was re-gifted to Tokyo, Fantin-Latour's The Temptation of Saint Anthony included, and became the basis of the NMWA in Tokyo.