The Temptation of Saint Anthony

The Temptation of Saint Anthony

Frederick Charles Underhill
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Frederick Charles Underhill (British, 1832 – 1896)

Oil on canvas
89 x 114.3 cm

Underhill was a painter of genre, coastal scenes and biblical subjects. He exhibited from 1851-75 at the Royal Academy in London. His submissions to the Academy included Sea Coast, 1852; The Gypsy Mother, 1855 and Hagar and Ishmael, 1863. The Dinner Hour is in the Birmingham Art Gallery.


St. Anthony faced a series of supernatural temptations during his time in the Egyptian desert. His suffering has been explored by artists over the centuries.The subject became especially popular in the late European Middle Ages, from around 1450. The century following saw the most famous depictions in book illumination, prints and paintings. Artists Martin Schongauer, Michelangelo, David Teniers the YoungerPaul Cézanne, Lovis Corinth, Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and many others portrayed St.Anthony’s vitae scenes.


The most common representation is the temptation by demons in the guise of voluptuous seductive semi-naked women.


The Temptation of Saint Anthony is a novel upon which the famous French author Gustave Flaubert spent his whole adult life considering the work his masterpiece. In 1845, at age 24, Flaubert visited the Balbi Palace in Genoa, and was inspired by a painting of the same title.


In 1946 the David L. Loew-Albert Lewin film production company held a contest for a painting on the theme of Saint Anthony’s Temptation, with the winner to be used in the film The Private Affairs of Bel Ami. Various artists produced paintings on this subject, and the contest was won by Max Ernstwhose work was duly shown in the film. However, the most well-known of these paintings is a failed contestant, Salvador Dalí’s version.

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