Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, completed in 1515, features a panel entitled The Temptation of St. Anthony. One of the most celebrated religious paintings on this subject, The Temptation of St. Anthony depicts a monstrous scene with St. Anthony surrounded by grotesque hybrid demons. The scene portrays the saint’s struggle with temptation from the devil and his ultimate victory over sin.
Grünewald masterfully depicted the tortured agony of St. Anthony through vivid details and intense facial expressions. This painting is one of six painted wings on the sculpted altar, which consists of three carved wood statues of saints and four hinged and painted wings on each side.
The Isenheim Altarpiece was created for a hospital that treated patients suffering from skin diseases and other illnesses during a time where medicine did not have many cures. Given this context, Grünewald’s depiction provides hope to those suffering as it shows that even Saintly figures can experience pain but ultimately overcome obstacles through faith.
The painting has inspired interpretations by other artists such as Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali who both explored the dark themes present in Grünewald’s work in their own unique styles.