Martin Schongauer: Temptation of St. Anthony

Martin Schongauer Temptation of St. Anthony
Martin Schongauer, Temptation of St. Anthony, engraving, c. 1480-90; German

Schongauer’s Temptation of St. Anthony is an excerpt from Life of St. Anthony. The event takes place while the saint is Asceticism in Egypt. During the moment he levitates and ascending to a divine state, he is attacked by devil in the form of demon like beasts who are grabbing his body back down to the ground; stopping him from divinity.

Despite being his early work in his art career, Schongauer’s masterful engraving technique has made this work his most well known engraving. The skill of crosshatching and line techniques he uses creates depth and volume of the figures. Furthermore, Schongauer’s studies on animals is clearly seen on the demon like beasts while he adapts contour lines and dots to create animal like textures, making his skill far unique and superior to other engraving at its time.

In addition to Schongauer’s claim to fame is the mass production of Christian art that is available to everyone. Before the late 15th century, Christian art was a rarity and available in holy sites or to the wealthy. The idea of engraving art on metal plates has made works of art available in the masses. Because of this, young Michelangelo was able to afford a copy that inspired him to create a colored version called “The Torment of Saint Anthony.”

Quick Notes:

  • Temptation of St. Anthony is from Life of St. Anthony, the story during St. Anthony’s Asceticism in Egypt and is attacked by demons in the form of beasts.
  • Masterful engraving techniques using crosshatching and lines to create depth and volume.
  • Schongauer’s studies on animals is then adapted into his engraving to create life like textures on beasts.
  • Early use of engraving allows mass production of Christian art in the 15th century, making art available to everyone and not only to the wealthy.