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The History of the Church 42 The Thousand Faces of Temptation The existence of sin presupposes the existence of a tempter—Satan, so frequently portrayed in the midst of his malefic operations. The Bible supplies its illustrators with two great stories of temptation: the serpent persuading Adam and Eve to taste the fruit from the tree of knowledge, and the devil importuning Christ after his 40-day fast in the desert. But there is another temptation that has enjoyed widespread notoriety and inflamed the imagination of countless artists: the temptation of Saint Antony, who died in 356. Living as a hermit in the desert from 20 to 105 years of age, he was constantly harassed by a demon who, gifted with an overflowing imagination, devised an infinite number of guises to seduce and deceive his victim. Artists—particularly painters, from Hieronymus Bosch to Salvador Dalí—have employed veritable treasures of ingenuity to depict these multiform temptations. Authors likewise have contributed their talents, such as Gustave Flaubert, who took 30 years to finish his Temptation of Saint Antony, described by his contemporary Barbey d’Aurevilly as “a nightmare traced with a splendid brush dipped in the colors of a rainbow.” It should be noted that Flaubert added an eighth capital sin to the list, even worse than the original seven: logic. Joachim Patinir (1480–1524) The Temptation of Saint Antony Museo del Prado, Madrid ...


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