I’ve come to the conclusion that all those great masters enjoyed doing their own versions of the Temptations of Saint Anthony just because it allowed them to come up with all sorts of wacky monsters and it could still be called sacred art. More recent versions, like those by Salvador Dalí and Dorthea Tanning, are explicit in their depiction of sexual temptations, but those by Bosch and David Teniers the Younger (my very favorite!) are a mix of the allegoric (the monsters and critters are representations of ugly cravings) and of temptation… in a different sense. St. Athanasius described how demons would swarm St. Anthony and beat and torture him mercilessly within an inch of his life, night after night. Here, the temptation takes the shape in the possibility that God had forsaken him, to which he never yields.


Detail of The Temptation of St. Anthony, by David Teniers the Younger.

Still! I get a kick of these supposed temptations depicted as overtly monstrous creatures crashing his pad. You’re coming on too strong, demons! Be more subtle!