Christ Appearing to Saint Anthony Abbot Annibale Carracci Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This is a small picture and it is one of the works of Annibale Carraci. He painted this work shortly after he arrived in Rome in 1594. The painting tells a deep story of Saint Anthony Abbot’s temptation who was an early Christian hermit who was known for having resisted several attempts by the devil to shake him from his faith.

The painting shows a bearded man who is in a hair robe and he is being threatened by a group of demonic creatures. The man cast aside his book and he gazes up at heaven for help where Christ appears reclining on a cloud. This artist's version is a good example of a compressed narrative that is mainly achieved through some dramatic lighting and a controlled composition. It is not known who this work was painted for but it was first recorded in the Villa Borghese Rome, in 1650 and it is speculated it might have been made for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V.

The painting has a vertical format and to compensate for this, the artist has built the story on strong diagonals. The saint’s body line is echoed by that of a demon, with the outline of the rock and the figures of Christ and angels hovering above. To complete the story and give it a better appearance colour and light are used. The artist has used colour to show the subdued earthy landscape, the Saint’s hairy outfit, the flesh and fur of the demons, and dots of light to glisten on eyes, teeth and claws. He also uses great colours such as a clear pink and blue for Christ’s robes, white clouds and the golden hair of the angels in the painting. There is a bright light that falls from the right side of the painting and it is strongest on Christ’s legs and softer as it illuminates the outstretched arm and clawed hand of the central monster.

There is a cave and it acts as a backdrop which helps in pushing the main characters to the front of the picture. This painting is found in the collection of the National Gallery London. In 1672 the biographer Giovan Pietro Bellori described this painting in his list of the paintings that Annibale made for private clients. The giclée painting delivers a clear image with maximum colour accuracy and brilliant resolution. This type of painting involves a process whereby millions of ink droplets are sprayed onto very high-quality paper giving it smooth colour gradients transitions. As a result the painting appears more realistic that other types of paintings.

Here are some art works related to Christ appearing include:

  • The Last Judgment Painting
  • Adoration of the Shepherds
  • Hercules Fighting the Nemean Lion, Peter Paul Rubens
  • Thor in Hymir’s boat battling the Midgard Serpent by Henri Fuseli