The Temptation of Saint Anthony

Object Details


The Temptation of Saint Anthony


Lelio Orsi (Italian, 1511 - 1587)






Oil on canvas


44.1 x 36.4 cm (17 3/8 x 14 5/16 in.)

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Lurking in the shadows, grotesque monsters slowly emerge to taunt Saint Anthony. Grinning with satanic delight, the demons take human and animal forms. Unperturbed, Saint Anthony continues to read his meditations. Divine light illuminates his figure, forming a bright halo around his head. After his parents' death, this early Christian monk retired to the Egyptian desert to contemplate God. He remained there for fifteen years; during this time he began his legendary combat against the devil, withstanding demonic apparitions and erotic visions. After resisting temptations, Saint Anthony emerged at last from the desert and organized and instructed a group of hermits who sought to imitate his example. Thus he became the father of Christian monasticism.

Lelio Orsi depicted this struggle of good and evil, vividly using light and shadow, loose, painterly brushwork, and a strong diagonal composition. Included in the painting are Saint Anthony's attributes: a tau cross (T-shaped), the pig, and the crutch at his side.

about 1930s

Private Collection (England)

Private Collection (Lugano, Switzerland)

- 1996

Leeds Overseas Inc. (Lugano, Switzerland), sold through Luca Baroni (Lugano, Switzerland) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.


Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997) p. 93, ill.

Clark, Stuart. "Afterword: Angels of Light and Images of Sanctity." In Angels of Light? Sanctity and the Discernment of Spirits in the Early Modern Period. Clare Copeland and Jan Machielsen, eds. (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013) pp. 295, 296, ill.