Title: The Torment of St. Anthony
Medium: oil and tempera on a wood
Size: 47 x 33.7 cm
The Temptation (or Temptations) of St. Anthony is an often-repeated subject in history of art and literature, concerning the supernatural temptation reportedly faced by Saint Anthony the Great during his sojourn in the Egyptian desert. Anthony's temptation is first discussed by Athanasius of Alexandria, Anthony's contemporary, and from then became a popular theme in Western culture. Athanasius reported that when the devil perceived Anthony's ascetic life and his intense worship, he was envious and beat him mercilessly, leaving him unconscious. When his friends from the local village came to visit him and found him in this condition, they carried him to a church.
Latest research holds that Michelangelo painted “The Torment of St. Anthony”, depicting the saint poised in midair and beaten by demons, between 1487 and 1488 when he was only 12 or 13. The painting’s attribution has been the subject of ferocious debate among scholars for four and a half centuries, but “The Torment of St. Anthony” has recently undergone conservation and technical research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the curator firmly believing that it was by the hand of the master. For centuries, art historians have known that Michelangelo copied an engraving of St. Anthony by the 15th-century German master Martin Schongauer for a painting. Michelangelo’s biographer and former student, Ascanio Condivi, wrote that Michelangelo had visited a local market while he was working on the painting to learn how to depict fish scales, a feature not found in the engraving. In addition to adding the fish scales, he depicted St. Anthony holding his head more erect and with an expression more detached than sad. He also added a landscape to the bottom of the composition, and created monsters that are more dramatic than those in the engraving.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (March 6, 1475 – February 18, 1564), commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. At thirteen, Michelangelo was apprenticed to the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. When Michelangelo was only fourteen, his father persuaded Ghirlandaio to pay his apprentice as an artist, which was highly unusual at the time. Among his best known works are the sculpture of David and the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.