The – Not So Tempting – Temptations of St. Anthony

No one in the entirety of Europe from the years 1200-1750 had any idea what temptation, or torsos, were.

I just came across this hilarious piece of religious-art history. You NEED to look at the whole thing, but here are a few highlights…

Just to get this out of the way, I am aware that the general vibe of most paintings of the Temptation of St. Anthony is like, DECADENT HORROR to denote the ultimate BAD END of temptations; all the horned pig-ferrets are more like a representation of “the wages of sin is DEATH” than like, an actual medieval desire to hang out with pig-ferrets. THAT SAID, literally everyone who has ever painted the Temptation of St. Anthony has actually no idea what temptation looks like.

Let us begin….

“Kiss me, Fuzzy Lobster Devil.” This is the worst temptation of them ALL. It’s just evil Care Bears and a furry crawdad? No one is tempted by this, not even the most committed of perverts.

This looks more like the island Pinocchio’s friends all get turned into donkeys on? Mr. Shellface playing the recorder, some weird Italian guy trying to read over his shoulder? WHAT ABOUT THIS SAYS TEMPTATION TO YOU? Everyone looks pinched and crowded and uncomfortable. The expression on St. Anthony’s face is “leave me alone with my books, you crab-falcon-beasts,” not “hmm, this might be worth abandoning eternal salvation for.”


This one comes close on first glance but is UTTERLY HOPELESS. There are two naked babes, yes, but they’re hiding behind him and they’re joined for some reason by a tiny helmeted scuba diver. There’s half a donkey by his feet and someone else is running away with like…a book that has feet? Someone he’s trapped in a too-small coffin? And St. Anthony isn’t looking at any of them. You cannot tempt someone who straight up ignoring you!

You can read the rest of the hilarious commentary with some fascinating paintings here.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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