“It seems to me that a man like our St. Anthony, with his self-inflicted mortification of the flesh, would be most crushingly tempted by sexual desires and, more particularly, the vision of woman in all her voluptuous aspects.”
“It is this phase which I have tried to depict in my painting. St. Anthony, alone in the desert, struggles against his visions; half-formed, moving in indolent suggestion, colored with the beautiful colors of sex, his desires take shape even in the folds of his own wind-tossed robes.”
– from Dorothea Tanning’s Statement from the Bel Ami International Art Competition exhibition brochure, p. 28.
In 1946, Dorothea Tanning entered this painting in the Bel Ami International Art Competition, with submissions by eleven other surrealists including Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dalí, and Max Ernst. While her husband Ernst won the competition, Tanning’s insight into the character of Saint Anthony breathes new life into a centuries-old theme in art history.
Reed Enger, "The Temptation of St. Anthony," in Obelisk Art History, Published March 19, 2019; last modified October 11, 2022, http://www.arthistoryproject.com/artists/dorothea-tanning/the-temptation-of-st-anthony/.