Saint Anthony sits to the left of the composition among ruins in a gloomy landscape reading a bible with a pig asleep at his feet. In the center is a well-dressed woman who offers up a glass of wine to St. Anthony while frog-like demon lifts back her dress to reveal a claw in place of a foot. Behind her is a collection of more creatures, two of which play instruments. Behind St. Anthony is a larger group of assorted demons.
Demonic creatures cavort around the stoic, seated figure of Saint Anthony in this unsettling scene. Born into a prosperous family in the 3rd century CE, Anthony gave up his status and wealth to live as a hermit in the desert, devoting himself to prayer.
During this time he was tormented by demons sent by the devil to tempt him away from his religious path. Their contorted bodies seem at once familiar and strange, human and animal—heightening our sense of unease. A pretty, young woman stands apart from this devilish crowd, extending a wine glass to the saint. Could her kind gesture provide Anthony a moment of relief? Perhaps not: a monstrous green lizard pulls back her robe to reveal her feet—and her true nature.
-Kendra Weisbin, Associate Curator of Education, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Sept. 2017)
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