Salvador Dali’s painting “The Temptation of St. Anthony” appeared thanks to cinema. For the film “Dear Friend” it was required to draw an image of a saint exposed to various temptations. Many different artists took part in this competition, including the great surrealist Salvador Dali, but a certain artist, an emigrant from Europe, won.
Saint Anthony is a real-life hermit who lived in the 4th century. According to legend, almost every night there were demons torturing him, or women trying to seduce him.
The plot depicting the temptations of St. Anthony was very popular in the Middle Ages – he experienced a rebirth already in the middle of the 20th century. Salvador Dali offered a rather original interpretation of this plot, however, like many others.
Salvador Dali’s painting “The Temptation of St. Anthony” seems to have an additional dimension between heaven and earth, the long and thin legs of the elephants are located there. In the center of the composition, the artist depicted all the temptations tormenting the hermit, and he himself is in the lower left corner of the picture.
Temptations are depicted in allegorical form: the horse personifies power, strength and pleasure, one of the elephants carries the Chalice of Desire on its back, the second is an obelisk, a symbol of power. In the background is depicted El Escorial – a symbol of harmony of soul and body, spiritual and material principles – the goal of Anthony.
This painting, according to researchers of Salvador Dali’s work, became the beginning of a new direction in the artist’s work: a synthesis of three elements begins to appear in his works: traditional painting, spiritualism and the spirit of a new era, the era of the atom.
Year of painting: 1946.
Dimensions of the painting: 89.7 x 119.5 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Genre: religious painting.
Gallery: Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium