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Annibale Carracci, Christ appearing to Saint Anthony Abbot

Key facts
Full title Christ appearing to Saint Anthony Abbot during his Temptation
Artist Annibale Carracci
Artist dates 1560 - 1609
Date made about 1598
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 49.5 × 34.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1846
Inventory number NG198
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Christ appearing to Saint Anthony Abbot
Annibale Carracci

A bearded man in a hair robe is being violently threatened by a horde of demonic creatures. He has cast aside his book and is gazing up at the heavens for help, where Christ has appeared reclining on a cloud.

This very small picture is one of a number of works on copper that Annibale Carracci painted shortly after his arrival in Rome in 1594. It tells the story of the temptation of Saint Anthony Abbot, an early Christian hermit who was famous for having resisted several attempts by the devil to shake him out of his monastic virtue.

Annibale’s version is a supreme example of compressed narrative, achieved through dramatic lighting and a tightly controlled composition. We are not sure who this work was painted for – it was recorded in the Villa Borghese, Rome, in 1650 and was perhaps made for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V.

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