The Temptation of St. Anthony
by Teniers, David II
SN 244, Oil on copper
12 1/8 - 9 inches (30.7 x 22.9 cm)
John Ringling, 1936
by Julie Kummer.
David Teniers II was born in 1610 to a family of artists, and became a Master of the Guild
of St. Luke after an apprenticeship to his father. He married the daughter of Jan
Brueghel. He was best known for his genre scenes, which were his most lucrative works.
Like Rubens, his friend and contemporary, Teniers gained social prominence and thus
religious appointments. He was Master of Holy Sacrament in the St. Jacobskerk and a leader
in the Guild of St. Luke. He became a court painter to Archduke Leopold Willem, Governor
of the Southern Netherlands. The responsibilities
of this position required him to display and enlargen the Archduke's art collection, a
subject he chose to paint in a series of eight views which are quite well known. After his
appointment he moved to Brussels. William's successor, Don Juan of Austria, was also a
patron of Teniers, as was Prince William of Orange, Queen Christina of Sweden, and most
notably King Philip IV of Spain. With his status among the nobility Teniers was able to
buy a country house, and was granted status as a nobleman. He also lobbied successfully to
establish an academy of art modeled after those in Paris and Rome. His last years were
thought to be financially difficult, perhaps due to the political unrest in his country
which culminated with the War of Spanish Succession.
The Temptation of St. Anthony -- Teniers painted this subject several times, and in it
expressed as a moralistic story. St. Anthony was seen as a leader of monastic life and
model for the denial of vice, specifically pleasures of the flesh. Here he is surrounded
by sources of temptation who appear as demons under the direction of Satan. Their presence
refers to his victory over them. St. Anthony, dressed in a black robe reads placidly as
scaly tailed frog-like creatures encircle him.
Several symbols represented in the picture should be noted. A pig, usually hidden in
shadow, signifies gluttony and lust. The pitcher personifies temperance. The skull,
hourglass and book refer to the vanity of life and its fleeting quality. Many think the
demon sitting on the floor facing the
viewer represents Teniers himself. (Komansky, Michael K., "Copper as Canvas,"
1999, p. 296.) The light source is natural, as with his other paintings of the same
subject, and comes from the window to the left, leaving the shadowy creatures who surround
St. Anthony half lit.
Teniers uses a buff colored ground and a thin layer of paint. Teniers was well known for
his subtle range of colors that were painted "wet on wet." The painting needs to
be cleaned through so that we can see the colors more clearly. The Suida catalogue
compares the Ringling Teniers painting to paintings of the same subject by Teniers hanging
in the Hague and the Rijks Museum and comments, "It is clear that the Ringling
painting is one of Teniers most dynamic works, in the intensity of the characterizations
and brilliance of the brushwork in the details."
Historical, political, social context:
Throughout Western Europe in the early 17th Century many were condemned and executed as
witches. Those who supported the condemned were likewise ostracized. A Biblical reference
St. Anthony fighting off the witch-like demons is applied to the practice of witchcraft
purportedly taking place in Flanders and elsewhere in Europe at the time, with peasant
sitters dressed in clothes contemporary to Teniers' time.
Other: A quarter of Teniers works are on copper. He often
used hammered and rolled sheets of copper with parallel waves in the plate. Copper was a
good choice for Teniers, as he was particularly interested in the effects of light and the
detail and use of crisp colors, which were enhanced with its use. Peter Paul Rubens was
not only a contemporary and fellow countryman of
Teniers, he also served as witness to his wedding to Anna, Jan Brueghel's daughter in
1637. (Komanecky, Michael K., "Copper as Canvas," 1999.)