More about The Temptations of St. Anthony the Abbot

Sr. Contributor

Saint Anthony's on the verge of a brown out in Tiepolo's itsy bitsy teenie weenie masterpiece.

At least, the museums that borrow it for today's Tiepolo retrospectives bill it out as a masterpiece. It's a really small work, just a few dozen centimeters in either direction. Later on, Tiepolo would hit his stride with big scale frescoes. So let's think of this as batting practice for the big game.

This St. Anthony came out early in Tiepolo's career, in the middle of a hustle he was running on the Venetian arts scene to make Church hermits happen. Frankly, a Saint Anthony from young Giambattista was inevitable. Depictions of the saint in the desert were the artistic equivalent of James Bond movies. Every couple of years, there's going to be a new one. And Idris Elba is hopefully the next one.

People connect with the story because the stakes are about as high as you can get (if you don't have a medical marijuana card). Young Saint Anthony loses his parents and goes into the frightful desert to find himself. Sure, he abandons his kid sister, but we'll ignore that. Siddhartha abandoned his wife and baby kid to go become the Buddha. That's an ancient corollary, yo. You gotta crack a few hearts to become the savior of all humankind. In any case, Saint Anthony went into the desert, sans sister, and squared off with the devil. He faced terrors and easy strange thrown at him from all directions. But, he persevered. Painters might focus on one trial, or all of them, or peyote spirit trips loosely inspired by the story. Tiepolo seems to have went with the batwing pimp and poison-oak-crotch angle. 


A luscious nymph is being counseled by the devil on how best to tempt St. Anthony

Perhaps the conversation goes like this:

Devil: I say drop the loincloth and just sashay right up to him. He looks a little piqued and is ripe for the picking.

Nymph: No problemo, Señor Diablo. You know I'd do anything for you.

Saint Anthony (muttering to himself): Give me a break, what are they thinking? I'm 70 years old, going on 80 and I can barely move, much less make sexy with Ms. Soft and Curvy over there. A walker, some extra strength reading glasses, and a bowl of prunes would be more like it...


Comments (1)


Francisco is right. At that age it's no longer tempting. The devil should tempt him with a nice cold glass of prune juice and a coupon for an early bird special at Denny's.