Michelangelo, The Torment of Saint Anthony, 1487-88

This is the earliest Michelangelo painting we know of, done when he was only 12 or 13 years old. It’s a copy of a famous engraving by Martin Schongauer (swipe to see the engraving) of a scene from St Anthony’s life. St Anthony was a Christian monk and ascetic from Egypt who went out into the desert around the year 270 AD looking for St Paul, another Christian ascetic. During his wanderings St Anthony was tortured and killed by demons in a cave, but at the funeral attended by other hermits he came back to life. He returned to the cave and called out to the demons, who promptly returned to give a second beat down, but there was a flash of God’s light and the demons scattered. St Anthony asked God what the deal was – why had God not protected him in the first place? To which God replied “I was here but I would see and abide to see thy battle, and because thou hast mainly fought and well maintained thy battle, I shall make thy name to be spread through all the world.”

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