Within the Timken Museum of Art there is a painting, a painting that represents the dilemma within the life of a saint. Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo calls this painting The Torment of Saint Anthony. Savoldo’s painting is framed along a wall of light and dark red arrows with artificial and natural light from above. Within this airy space deemed The Walter Fitch III Room this painting is surrounded by various art pieces from around the world; most of which are religious art pieces. Though each of these paintings are very unique and have much to offer the focus of this essay will be on that of the painting known as The Torment of Saint Anthony.
Starting his painting in 1508 Savoldo set out to create an interpretation of St. Anthony’s torment in his own unique way. This 27 3/8×47 in. painting describes St. Anthony fleeing from the torment of demonic creatures and evil spirits as he attempts to reach a land of pleasantry and peace. These Treacherous creatures in the right portion of the painting are depicted similarly to the demonic creatures in Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights. In the bottom right portion of the painting there are two creatures inside a coliseum near a boiling kettle that contains a human head inside it.
This could be a representation made by Savoldo of a possible result of what happens if one does not repent one’s sins and cannot escape these demons. The entire right portion of this art piece is a representation of Hell and all it has to offer. The burning civilization or town in the right background displays the confines in which demons, evil spirits, and those who must suffer with them dwell. The right foreground seems to be a possible entrance to this demonic place and this is the part of the painting with the most action taking place.
Bird Creatures are eating humans, a half bull, half bird creature is carrying another creature with a sack of human body parts, and a ship in an illuminated cave tunnel has burning men all over it. While all these creatures loath, eat, and suffer, St. Anthony is trying desperately to escape the confines of these demons and evil spirits. Saint Anthony, a man who gave all his wealth away to devote his life to prayer, was tormented for much of his life by these demons and evil spirits sent to him by the Devil. Savoldo’s painting represents Anthony’s constant truggle in great artistic detail and is a painting that brings those struggles to life. In the bottom left portion of this painting St. Anthony’s hands are clasped in prayer as he moves to a pastoral land where light shines in. He seems to have escaped yet the emotions on his face depict a fear or uncertainty that he will be unable to escape the torments completely. In the middle upper part of the painting a cave dwelling ape creature points a spear towards St. Anthony. This could represent the inescapable reality that St.
Anthony will never truly be free of these demons and creatures. In the background of the left portion of the painting Savoldo uses atmospheric perspective to create depth to the painting. In the distance, behind St. Anthony, there is a monastery. This monastery is said to be a reminder that St. Anthony is the father monasticism. Savoldo used many colors given the fact that his painting consisted of two very different scenes with a very interesting middle transition. His use of light is very effective and he shows some true skill when creating his painting.
The cave tunnel with the ship, for example, was very difficult to create an illumination of light yet Savoldo did it outstandingly. His use of light from the left portion of the painting to the right proves his professionalism and his ability to create effective transitions. The piece is framed at eye level and the best place to stand is directly in front of it in order to see the entire piece for what it is worth. I chose this piece by Savoldo because when I saw it, it immediately grabbed my attention. Seeing this piece in person made me feel as if I could stay in the museum all day and stare at it, think about it, and enjoy it.
I enjoy this piece because it creates a physical, visual event that otherwise wouldn’t be seen by reading the story of St. Anthony. Author of the article, “Savoldo and Northern Art,” Michael Jacobsen in the book, The Art Bulletin, stated that, “the right half of [the Torment of Saint Anthony] represents a “Hellscape” much in Bosch’s manner, while on the left, beyond the mound of earth that divides the picture, is a more conventional northern Italian landscape. St. Anthony flees into this normal world, with a backwards glance at the spectral scene he leaves behind. In the book, Timken Museum of Art, it is stated that, “ Savoldo’s painting is a free interpretation of the physical account of Anthony’s Temptations. ” The literature further explains, “ [He] seems to reinterpret the original source so that the event takes place, not in the original cave setting, but in the natural world he so relished to be depict. ” With these alterations Savoldo creates a unique vision that catches a many attention and creates a piece that differentiates itself from the many other depictions of St.
Anthony by many artists. I feel that actually visiting a museum and looking at art helps to appreciate it more. Seeing these art pieces that have withstood time is interesting and this unique painting by Savoldo shows that though the world is constantly changing there are some things that live forever. With my visit to the Timken Museum of Art I have become more appreciative of the world of art. Bibliography Michael A. Jacobsen, “Savoldo and Northern Art,” The Art Bulletin Vol. 56, No. 4 (Dec. , 1974), pp. 530-534, http://www. stor. org/stable/3049299 Hal Fischer/Fonia W. Simpson, Ed. , Timken Museum of Art: European Works of Art, American Paintings, and Russian Icons in the Putnam Foundation Collection (San Diego, CA: Putnam Foundation, Inc. , 1996) 53-57 David Alan Brown; Sylvia Ferino Pagden; Jaynie Anderson; Barbara Berrie, Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian painting (Washington : National Gallery of Art ; Vienna : Kunsthistorisches Museum, in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006) 136-139