St. Anthony was a hermit who lived around the year 300, abandoning his money and possessions to take up a life of self-denial for the sake of living as Jesus suggested.
While in the desert he was supposedly afflicted with torments and temptations to abandon his self-imposed lifestyle. Among those temptations were women because, apparently, Anthony had denied himself the pleasures of the flesh along with other features of normal life.
This subject proved to be catnip for many artists because they had the theme of extreme piety with which to wrap images of lovely, usually naked women.
There are lots of paintings dealing with St. Anthony's temptation, so here is but a sampling.
This is a pretty early depiction of St. Anthony being tempted. Note that the temptresses are clothed.
By the time of the great Tiepolo, showing nudity was okay.
Delaroche has the the gals really ganging up on the poor saint.
Rops took the risk of having a lively cross-bound woman as the key temptation with the crucified Christ and the devil on either side of her.
Pascin, on the other hand, made do with a Cecil B. DeMille sort of crowd scene.
Tanning, who died a few weeks ago at age 101, was a borderline surrealist and gave the scene a surrealistic cast.
Dalí, being Dalí, threw in a bunch of personal symbolism. And yes, there's a nude woman someplace.
This obviously staged photo shows Dalí supposedly working on the painting shown above. True, here is a nude blonde model, but her pose is not what's in the painting. In any case, Dalí has already painted the nude, so why is the model still standing around?
The other images are in approximately chronological order, but I saved Morelli's for last because (1) I like it best and (2) I saw it a few years ago in Rome's Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna.
In the following post I'll deal with some painters who liked the subject so much that they did two versions of St. Anthony's temptations.
UPDATE: Please note the discussion in Comments regarding the Morelli image which seems to a photographic imitation of the actual painting.
Domenico Morelli's Saint Anthony is also my favorite of all the versions I've seen. However the illustration you provide is not of Morelli's painting but is a photographer's re-staging of the painting. I've come across this sort of thing before with other artists' works, including those of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. See Wikipedia.org for a view of Morelli's Saint Anthony.
Anthony -- I see the difference. Close enough that one couldn't tell without a side-by-side comparison. Plus, it's been several years since I saw the original, and memory of details does fade.
I appreciate the heads-up. Since the post is now fairly old, I'll leave it to this comment thread to document the problem.
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