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Art / The Temptation of St. Anthony (Rops)

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The Temptation of St. Anthony is a 1878 watercolor painting by Belgian artist Félicien Rops. The drawing shows Saint Anthony who kneels before the cross of Christ, on which Christ has been replaced by a naked woman. The devil, who is behind the cross, is the one who has pushed Christ away and replaced him with a woman. The putti have also been replaced by skeleton versions. The book in front of Anthony has a title "De Continentia Josephi" (about the abstinence of Joseph).


The Temptation of St. Anthony provides examples of:

  • Gratuitous Animal Sidekick: Satan is accompanied by a pig.
  • Putto: A pair of winged cherubs are present in the upper lefthand corner of the piece, but their upper halves (including their wings) are skeletal in appearance, each of them carrying withered flowers with them.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The titular temptation manifests in the form of a voluptuous naked woman who seems to act as a symbolic replacement for God. She is tied to the cross in the same manner as Jesus, her expression one of elation instead of the idea of agony being a redemptive tool. Behind the cross, we see an Obviously Evil demon in red carrying Jesus - who's position implies him to be an effigy of the real deal that was originally on that cross. The inscription INRI (initials for "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum", or "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews") is replaced by the word EROS, the name of the Greek God of desire and sexual pleasure. This all implies that the temptation is replacing his piety for God with the pleasures of the sin of Lust, St. Anthony's horror in this vision being him attempting forgo the sins of the flesh in-favor of his piety.
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  • Villainous Harlequin: The devil (whether he's Satan or some other demon) is portrayed as an ash-grey man wearing a bright-red hooded robe, his horns poking out from the horns on his hood.


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