Sunday, April 21, 2019

Links for the Easter Season

Anthony van Dyck, The Resurrection
Flemish, c. 1631-1632
Hartford (CT), Wadsworth Athenaeum

The days of Lent and the days of sadness that are the Triduum are past once again and Easter 2019 has arrived!

Alleluia!  Alleluia!

I wish you a happy and profoundly inspiring Easter Season.

Below are links to some of the commentary that I have written over the  years regarding the iconography of the Easter Season, which extends from this happy day till Pentecost.

Please feel free to explore, the Resurrection and the days immediately following through the feast of the Holy Trinity.

The Resurrection, the Appearances, the Incredulity of Thomas, Emmaus

Date Published

The Women at the Tomb

April 27, 2011

Noli Me Tangere

April 29, 2011

Jesus, the Gardener
April 18, 2017

The Incredulity of St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas)
May 1, 2011

Emmaus -- The Journey

May 7, 2011

Emmaus -- The Recognition

May 7, 2011

Climbing from the Tomb

May 13, 2011

Hovering over the Tomb

May 13, 2011

Bursting from the Tomb

May 14, 2011

An Awkward
Resurrection Image

April 23, 2014
Good Shepherd Sunday
May 15, 2011

The Lake of Galilee -- The Disciples Go Fishing

May 17, 2011

Commission to Peter -- The Good Shepherd Transfers Responsibility

May 21, 2011

The Commission to the Apostles

May 27, 2011

Christ Appears to His Mother

Christ Presents the Redeemed to His Mother

June 1, 2011

May 11, 2017

The Ascension

Striding into the Sky
June 3, 2011

Lifted in a Mondorla or on a Cloud

May 5, 2017

The Disappearing Feet

May 5, 2017

The Direct Approach

May 5, 2017


Veni, Sanctae Spiritus

Tongues of Fire

May 27, 2012

May 15, 2016

At This Sound, They Gathered In a Crowd

The Holy Trinity

Worthy Is The Lamb

Father, Son, Spirit

Iconography of the 
Holy Trinity – 
Imagining The Unimaginable

May 17, 2016

April 10, 2016

May 18, 2008

June 2, 2012

© M. Duffy, 2017

Friday, April 19, 2019

O Sacred Head Surrounded

Fra Angelico, Head of Christ
Italian, c. 1430-1440
Livorno, Church of Santa Maria del Soccorso
On Deposit with Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori

"O Sacred Head surrounded By crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head so wounded, Reviled and put to scorn!
Death’s pallid hue comes o’er Thee, The glow of life decays,
Yet angel hosts adore Thee, And tremble as they gaze.

I see Thy strength and vigor All fading in the strife,
And death with cruel rigor, Bereaving Thee of life:
O agony and dying! O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying, O turn Thy face on me.

In this, Thy bitter passion, Good shepherd, think of me,
With Thy most sweet compassion, Unworthy though I be:
Beneath Thy cross abiding, Forever would I rest;
In Thy dear love confiding, And with Thy presence blest."

Passion Hymn attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (12th Century)
English translation by Henry W. Baker (1861)

For many years I have been struck by a variant of the Man of Sorrows theme that focuses just on the head of Jesus, wounded and wearing the crown of thorns.  It reminded me forcefully of the hymn "O Sacred Head Surrounded" that has been a favorite since I learned it as a child during my pre-Vatican II parochial school's mandatory rehearsal every Wednesday morning for the Children's Mass which we were all expected to attend on the coming Sunday.  And we sang!  While many of the hymns we learned in those groggy morning sessions have faded from use, this one has not.  It remains a staple of just about every Christian church's Lenten experience.
Holy Face
Italian or Spanish, 15th Century
Paris, Musée du Louvre

For months I have been collecting images and background information on the various images of the Sacred Head and a fascinating image it is.  However, on this week, which was supposed to be my week for writing the intended essay, we have witnessed the partial destruction of Notre-Dame de Paris and my good intentions have gone out the window.  
Petrus Christus, Head of Christ
Flemish, c. 1445
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
It is, however, appropriate that I share at least some of the images with you in this particular week.  For, one of the great treasures of Notre-Dame is the relic of the Crown of Thorns itself.  

Doubtless many readers will scoff and say "Crown of Thorns, really!  Is she really serious about that?"  And, once upon a time I shared in that skepticism.  It seemed wildly fanciful to suppose that such a thing could possibly have been real.  However, on more mature consideration I think that it is not completely improbable that certain items associated with the death of Jesus were reverently preserved at the time and specially valued after the Resurrection.  
Aelbert Bouts, Head of Christ
Flemish, c. 1500-1525
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten

Is it so difficult to believe that someone picked up the crown of thorns when it was removed from his head and kept it?  We know from the Gospels that there were people there at the cross who loved him, starting with his mother.  Might someone have kept it for her?  It seems a very human thing to do.  
Sebald Beham, Head of Christ
German, 1520
London, British Museum

There was once a belief that the description of his being nailed to the cross was an invention, until evidence was found in  the skeleton of another crucified individual of the nails used to fix his feet to the cross on which he died.  Consequently, might not the nails drawn from Jesus' hands and feet have been preserved by his family?  
Ankle bones of man crucified in 70AD
Jerusalem, Israel Museum
The Crown of Thorns and the Nail kept in Notre-Dame were obtained by Saint Louis/Louis IX in Constantinople, which became the repository of many of the most treasured relics from Palestine and Syria as those areas were overrun by Muslim invaders in the seventh century.  Once they arrived in Paris, we know where they were and we also know that thorns from the Crown were removed and given to this church or that abbey all through the medieval period, so that what remains today is the twined branches, denuded of the thorns and encased in a glass and gilt reliquary.  Nevertheless, there is really no reason to doubt that the Crown we see today is the same one brought to France by Saint Louis and little reason to doubt that it once was pressed on the head of Jesus.  Certainly, the firefighters who fought to retrieve it from the burning church on April 15, 2019 did not.  
The Crown of Thorns in its reliquary
Paris, Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
So, I present today a selection of the larger group of images of the Sacred Head Surrounded by Crown of Piercing Thorn.

Correggio (Antonio Allegri), Head of Christ
Italian, c. 1525-1530
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
Guido Reni, Head of Christ
Italian, Early 1630s
Detroit, Institute of Arts
Wenceslaus Hollar, Ecce Homo
Czech, 1647
London, British Museum
Head of Christ
Italian, Early 18th Century
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum
Ivory Head of Christ
French, 19th Century
Private Collection

The full essay I was planning will have to wait a bit.

© M. Duffy, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Two Events at The Met in Wake of Notre-Dame Fire

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that two events have been planned in reference to the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris.  The first is this afternoon at the Cloisters, the specialized medieval museum that sits at the top of Manhattan, about an hour north of the main Fifth Avenue building.

The second will take place next Monday afternoon.   See the text of the press release below.

Two Events at the Met in Wake of Notre-Dame Fire
Following the recent disastrous fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is offering two occasions for the community to gather:

At The Met Cloisters, on Thursday, April 18, at 2 p.m.,   a bell in the Museum's tower will toll for one minute, coinciding with the ringing of bells scheduled to take place across the UK, during which time visitors may observe a minute of silence.

At The Met Fifth Avenue, on Monday, April 22, at 4  p.m., an informal program will take place in the Medieval Sculpture Hall, where Met experts who are familiar with Notre-Dame Cathedral will speak briefly about its importance. On special display for this occasion will be a mid-15th-century manuscript by Jean Fouquet, The  Right  Hand of God Protecting the Faithful against the  Demons, that depicts Notre-Dame. 
Jean Fouquet, The Right Hand of God Protecting the Faithful Against Demons
From The Hours of Etienne Chevalier
French, c.1452-1460
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lehman Collection
Also nearby will be The Met's 12th-century Head of King David— originally part of the rich sculptural decoration program of Notre-Dame, but decapitated during the French Revolution. 
Head of King David, From Notre-Dame de Paris
French, c. 1145
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And Johan Barthold Jongkind's The Pont  Neuf (1849–50), in which the skyline is punctuated by the cathedral's towers, will also be on view in European Paintings Gallery 812.
Johan Barthold Jongkind, The Pont Neuf
Dutch, c. 1849-1850
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Speakers will include:

Daniel Weiss, President and CEO, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Max Hollein, Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 
Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior urator for The Met Cloisters
Lucretia Kargère, Conservator, The Met Cloisters
Nancy Wu, Senior Managing Educator, Public Programs, The Met Cloisters

Press Contact: or 212-570-3951

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Medieval Architects Could Build!

The Virgin of Paris as I saw her last.
French, Early 14th Century
Paris, Notre-Dame de Paris

If one every doubted the genius of the medieval architects who built the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe, any doubts were laid to rest today.

After watching in horror as the entirety of Notre-Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday I was forced to leave the house for an appointment.  The last image I saw on my TV screen was of a drone flight over the stricken building.  It looked entirely hopeless.

Drone view of the burning Notre-Dame.  The west end, with the bell towers, is at the left of the picture.  The rounded apse at the east end is to the right.  The building seems to be completely engulfed.
However, returning home some hours later a glimmer of wonder greeted me.  What had burned, tragic as it was, was only the roof!  In spite of the dramatic fall of the great 19th century spire and the destruction of the roof, the interior was virtually intact!

For this we have to thank those 12th and 13th century men who planned and built the bones of this great church with little more than a basic understanding of geometry, practical experience and manual construction skills.  The wonderful structure of stone which they created with their minds and hands had withstood the collapse of the wooden and lead roof.  In a few places it seems to have given way, as photos taken inside revealed, but in the main it had held the building secure as it was meant to do.
View showing damage to two of the vaults, with the fire still raging above them.  One can just make out the red hot structure of the wooden beams supporting the roof, which provided the fuel for the fire.
One hopes that the vaults will continue to hold the building steady in this damaged state.  Stone, especially limestone, can be weakened by high temperatures and the future depends on how much of it suffered sufficient heat, as this interview with one of the professors from my alma mater points out.

However, for now the great news is that the interior is largely intact, in so far as the stone structure is concerned.  A view of the altar area, underneath the crossing of the nave and transepts, which would have been directly underneath the spire shows some serious damage to some of the wooden furnishings.  And, according to the cathedral authorities, some of the large 17th century paintings could not be moved out of harm's way.  Some may have suffered burn damage, but some may have been protected by their placement in side chapels.  Therefore, all is not gone, though there was presumably at least smoke damage and, probably water damage as well.
The Crossing area of Notre-Dame during the fire.  It is clear that something has fallen into the area (probably the spire) and is smoldering all around the altar area.  While the pulpit on the far right seems unscathed, as does the Virgin of Paris (you can just about make the statue out attached to the pier on the right hand side of the crossing), I am not sure that the wooden choir stalls and organ console have survived.  The cross and the grand marble monument with the Pieta in the background seem to be unharmed as well.
Also hopeful was news that most of the precious relics, including what may be the Crown of Thorns, were saved, appropriately enough by the chaplain of the Sapeurs Pompiers (i.e., firefighters).

While it looked bad for the famous rose windows of the transepts, there is  happy news there too.  Only the smaller windows that are at the roof line were damaged, and that damage was severe.  The stone tracery is intact, but there is no glass left within it.  But the bigger, more important windows survived intact.

Roof line rose window of one of the transepts, empty of glass.  
This is fortunate for, while a window can be reconstructed, a reconstruction is just that, a remaking.  And, no matter how good, it is not quite the same as the real thing.

I rejoice that much has been preserved, however, and that so far as we know no lives were lost.

May the Blessed Virgin watch over this greatest of the cathedrals named in her honor and may she and the many saints of Paris and of France watch over the people who live there.  May the faith of those who responded to this tragic day with prayer and hymns inspire the world who watched.

It is my hope that once again the cathedral can open its arms to the world with the Easter song of Alleluia, for death has not conquered and will not.
This photo of the crossing area, taken the day after the fire, show the charred remains of the spire and the roof and the stone blocks from the broken vaulting.  The wooden choir stalls, which stood on each side of the crossing are gone, presumably burned to ash.  However, the structure of the central piers withstood the shock, the apse area seems complete, the old high altar area with its signature image of the Pieta and the Virgin of Paris can be seen, blackened by smoke, but largely intact, as is the large metal cross and the old altar frontal.  The Virgin of Paris appears to have lost her right arm, which held an unopened lily (a fleur-de-lys).  However, I would be surprised if this is the first time that has happened.  The newer altar survived (it can be seen in the above earlier picture, taken during the fire), but is buried under the debris..
The priority for now is to make the structure safe to prevent further damage, but we can be very thankful that our medieval forebears built for God and the ages, not for profit.

Saints Genevieve, Denis, Louis, Peter Julian, Jean Marie, Therese, Mary Magdalene, Francois de Sales, Anne, Bernard, Vincent de Paul, Jeanne d'Arc, Martin of Tours, Bernadette, Margaret Mary, Catherine and all the numerous other saints of France pray for us all.

In the middle of the 12th century the cathedral of Chartres burned down.  All that was left of the church was a newly constructed west facade and the crypt.  Out of that experience, the first great Gothic cathedral was born.  Notre-Dame de Paris was the second one, may its near destruction today be the seed for something great to emerge as well.

© M. Duffy, 2019

Photo credits to Reuters with the exception of the first image, of the Virgin of Paris, which is my own.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Something you don't see everyday!

Reposting an article from a happier day as I watch the destruction of Notre Dame with pain in my heart.  Originally posted on February 3, 2013.

Here's something you don't see every day and that hasn't happened for centuries -- the dedication of nine new bells for the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris!  The new bells are displayed in the center aisle of the historic building and will be on display until February 23rd, when they will be moved to the bell towers.  They will ring out over Paris for the first time on Palm Sunday, March 24.

The video is worth watching as the each of the huge bells is named and rung for the first time by groups of adults and children. The new bells are named:

  1. Jean-Marie (in honor of the late Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger of Paris, who died in 2007)
  2. Maurice (in honor of Bishop Maurice de Sully, the bishop who was the force behind the great cathedral and laid the cornerstone of the building in 1163)
  3. Benoit-Joseph (in honor of Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger)
  4. Etienne (in memory of the first church on the site, which was dedicated to St. Stephen the first martyr)
  5. Marcel (in honor of St. Marcel, ninth bishop of Paris, in the fifth century, who was beloved for his charity to the poor and sick)
  6. Denis (in honor of St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris, a martyr in 250 and the most famous of France's early saints)
  7. Anne-Genevieve (in honor of St. Anne, the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus, and of St. Genevieve, the sixth century saint, best known as the protectress of Paris)
  8. Gabriel (in honor of the Angel Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation)
  9. Marie (in honor of Mary, the Mother of God).  Marie is a "great bell" or bourdon and will join the current bourdon, Emmanuel, the surviving bell from the old ring, named for Jesus, God with us. 
According to the Associated Press report, the new bells are the first since 1856, when four temporary bells of inferior materials were cast.  The new bells will join the oldest bell, the bourdon Emmanuel, cast in 1680, which survived the destruction of the other bells during the French Revolution, and will replace the 19th century bells that have now gone out of tune.  They will also restore the cathedral bells to the complement in existence up to the French Revolution. 

Bells traditionally carry inscriptions on their shoulders and around their mouths, expressed in the first person, and Marie is no exception.  On one side she carries the words of the Hail Mary.  On the other side she tells her own story.  In addition to giving her current history, with details about her casting and her dedication in the jubilee year celebrating the 850th anniversary of the cathedral, the inscription on her shoulders says (my translation):  "I bear the name of the first bourdon of Notre Dame, cast in 1378, recast for the last time in 1472 by Thomas de Claville and destroyed in 1792".   In a nutshell, Marie's inscription tells the story of much of the artistic patrimony of France.

Long may the new bells ring over Paris, reminding people of the presence of God!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Temptations of Christ

First Temptation of Christ
From Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Belgian (Hainaut), 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16251, fol. 28v
"Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread."
Jesus answered him,
"It is written, One does not live on bread alone."
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
"I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve."
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.”
Luke 4:1-13, Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, Year C
March 10, 2019

Each year the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent presents us with a reading about the temptation of Jesus by the devil, immediately following his Baptist in the Jordan by Saint John the Baptist.  The Devil noticed the events surrounding the Baptism, the intervention of the Holy Spirit and the voice from Heaven and his attention became focused on this previously unknown young man from what had seemed an ordinary background.  Seizing the moment, he set to work with some serious temptations. 

The earliest of the three Synoptic Gospels, that of Mark, gives us only a bare mention of the temptation event.  The other two are more detailed, although they reverse the order of the second and third temptations, but are united in the nature of the first one.  The first temptation is that of changing stones to bread. This would demonstrate power over the natural world, but is something that a mere magician might be able to do.    The second (following Saint Luke) is to assume worldly political power, a fairly ordinary temptation, but well within the reach of Satan to gift to the tempted one.  The third is much more subtle, it is a temptation to demonstrate power over spiritual things, for angels are pure spirit and not of this world.  If someone were to succumb to this temptation that person would have to be a very strong commander of spiritual things, in fact, they would have to be the Son of God.  
The Temptations of Christ
From the Drogo Sacramentary
French (Metz), Middle of the 9th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9428, fol. 41

Wisely Jesus refuses to accept any of the challenges, but instead rebukes the Devil for asking them, reminding him of some major truths, such as only God is worthy of service and only the Word of God can satisfy the soul. 

The episode has been a popular one for illustrators of the Bible ever since the middle ages; and the changing ways in which the Devil has been portrayed can tell us something about the anxiety level of those who painted and viewed them regarding their expectations of what they were faced with in their own times of temptation.1

Initially, the earliest illustrations I could find present the tempter as a human being or a fallen angel, following the still surviving ideas of classical antiquity which dominated the first 1,000 of Christian art. 2
The Baptism and Temptations of Christ
From the Gospel Book of Otto III
German (Reichenau), c. 1000
Munich, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 4453, fol. 31v

This remained true for Byzantine art as well and for what we now call Romanesque art. 

The Temptations of Christ
Byzantine, 1100-1150
Venice, Basilica of San Marco
Basilius, The Temptations of Christ
From the Melisande Psalter
Latin Kingdom (Jerusalem), c. 1131-1143
London, British Library
 MS Egerton 1139, fol. 4

However, around the year 1100, at the beginning of the second Christian millennium, an element of fantasy entered into people’s ideas about how this tempter should look.  He began to morph into the demon we all know from the traditional culture’s idea of the devil.  He developed claw-like feet, sometimes a grotesque face, modeled on some ferocious animal, he grew horns and sprouted a tail.  By the year 1200 he had become a creature of our nightmares.
Capital with the First Temptation of Christ
French, 12th Century
Chauvigny, Church of Saint Pierre
First Temptation of Christ
From the Psalter of Christina of Markyate (The Saint Albans' Psalter)
English (St. Alban's),  c. 1124-1145
Hildesheim, Dombibliothek, p. 33
Temptations of Christ
Spanish (Castille-Leon), 1st Half of the 12th Century, possibly 1129-1134
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection
Capital with the First Temptation of Christ
French, c.1150
Saulieu, Church of Saint Androche
First Temptation of Christ
From Miniatures of the Life of Christ
French (Corbie), c. 1170-1180
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M44, fol. 5v
The Temptations of Christ and Christ Ministered to by Angela
From a Picture Bible
French (St. Omer, Abby of St. Bertin), c. 1190-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 12v

And then things changed again.  While still retaining his new characteristics he began to be domesticated.  No one can convince me that the benignly cartoonish "pet" devils found in manuscripts dating from the first half of the thirteenth century were about to frighten anyone.  More likely they were a cause for amusement to the users of the books that featured them. 
First and Second Temptations of Christ
From a Psalter-Hours
French (Paris). c. 1228-1234
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M153, fol. 18v

Third Temptation of Christ
From a Psalter-Hours
French (Paris). c. 1228-1234
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M153, fol. 19r
Baptism of Christ and First Temptation
From a Psalter
English (Oxford), c. 1240
London, British Library
MS Arundel 157, fol. 5
Second and Third Temptations of Christ
From a Psalter
English (Oxford), c. 1240
London, British Library
Arundel 157, fol. 6

Third Temptation of Christ
From the Psalter-Hours of Yolande of Soissons
French, c. 1280-1299
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M729, fol. 39v

While this type of relatively harmless devil existed into the fourteenth century, another image began to appear.  This devil was still grotesque, but considerably more threatening.  He was most often portrayed as a dark, sometimes even black figure with wings.  Perhaps the terrible experience of the Black Death, which led to the death of some many people in the middle of the century, contributed to the darkened mood and tone.  This may not be the entire explanation, however, as the trend had begun in the early years of the century, well before the arrival of the plague. 
Duccio, Third Temptation of Christ
Italian, c. 1308-1311
New York, Frick Collection
Queen Mary Master, The Temptations of Christ
From the Queen Mary PsalterEnglish, c. 1310-1320
London, British Library
MS Royal 2 B VII, fol. 191
Giovanni di Benedetto and Workshop, First Temptation of Christ
From a MissalItalian (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 747, fol. 305v
By the beginning of the fifteenth century some artists were beginning to depict him as a human being again, although he might be trying to disguise ugly birdlike (sometimes webbed) feet under his robes and may sport the occasional pair of horns.  Sometimes this is only true for the first temptation and the other two continue to show him as a demon.
Lorenzo Ghiberti, Temptation of Christ
Italian, c. 1401-1424
Florence, Baptistry, North Doors
Temptations of Christ
From the Ottheinrich-Bibel
German (Regensburg), 15th-16th Century
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Hss Cgm 8010(1), fol. 29
In this interesting illustration the devil appears first in the guise of an old man.  For the second and third temptations he has shed his disguise.
Bedford Master and his Workshop, First Temptation of Christ
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1430-1435
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M359, fol. 50v

In this series of three separate scenes, the devil appears as a human figure only in the first.
Bedford Master and his Workshop, First
Temptation of Christ
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1430-1435
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M359, fol. 51r
Bedford Master and his Workshop, First
Temptation of Christ
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1430-1435
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M359, fol. 52r

Master of Schloss Lichtenstein, First Temptation of Christ
Austrian, c. 1445-1450
Vienna, Belvedere Museum

Other artists continued to present the by now traditional grotesque figure.

The First Temptation
From the Lisle HoursEnglish, c. 1316-1331
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS G50, fol. 18v
Limbourg Brothers, Second Temptation
From the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
Flemish, c. 1416
Chantilly, Musee Conde_
MS 65, fol. 161v

Claes Brouwer, The Temptations of Christ
From a History Bible
Dutch (Utrecht), c.1430
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 78 D 38II, fol. 150r
Hans Strigel the Elder, First Temptation of Christ
German, c. 1443
Gestratz (DEU), Catholic Parish Church of Saint Gallus
As artists began to develop more naturalistic styles of painting, they began to depict the natural world as well.  Some of what they painted may seem to our eyes to be very little like a desert, but one should remember that the word which our modern translations present as “desert” has also often been translated as “wilderness”.  Since most Europeans had never seen a true desert, or even much in the way of arid lands, they interpreted the wilderness as they experienced it.    
Master of the Passion Sequences, The Temptations of Christ
German, c. 1430-1435
Cologne_Wallraf-Richartz Museum
Israhel van Mechenem the Younger, First and Second Temptations of Christ
German, c. 1450-1500
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kupferstich-Kabinett
Rambures Master, The First Temptation of Christ, with the Temptation of Esau and the Temptation of Adam and Eve
From a Biblia pauperum
French (Hesdin or Amiens), c. 1470
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS MMW 10 A 15, fol. 25v
This triple image combines the Temptation of Christ (Under Grace) with temptations from the Old Testament.  On the left, Jacob tempts Esau with a bowl of porridge, which the hungry Esau exchanges for his birthright as first born son (Under the Law).  On the right Adam and Eve are tempted to commit the original sin (Before the Law).  The three fold division of time into periods Before the Law, Under the Law and Under Grace was a way of understanding salvation history which was typical of the middle ages, but which was running out of steam by this late date.
Master Francois, First and Third Temptations
From the City of God by St. Augustine of Hippo
French (Paris), c. 1475
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS MMW 10 A 11, fol. 423r
Master of Philippe of Guelders, First Temptation
From a Psalter
French (Paris), c. 1490-1503
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M934, fol. 223r

The dichotomy between the grotesque devil figure and the more sinister, apparently human, figure persisted throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 
Juan de Flandres, First Temptation
Hispano-Flemish, c.1500-1504
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Wood Panel with the First Temptation
French, Early 16th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection
Style of Patinir, First and Second Temptations
Flemish, c. 1500
Upton House, near Banbury (UK), National Trust
Although the focus is on the first confrontation of Jesus and the devil, the second temptation is included.  There are two tiny figures visible at the top of the very steep precipice in the left middle ground.
First Temptation
From a BreviaryFrench (Southern), c. 1506-1516_
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M8, fol. 69v
Master of St. Severin, The Temptations of Christ
German (Lower Rhine), c.1520-1521
London, Victoria and Albert Museum
Dirk Jakobszoon Vellert, The First Temptation
Dutch, 1525
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kupferstich-Kabinett
Simon Bening, The Temptations of Christ
From the Prayer Book of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg
Flemish (Bruges), c.1525-1530
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 19, fol. 62v
Anonymous Flemish Painter, The First Temptation
Flemish, c. 1570
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Pieter Stevens, The First and Second Temptations of Christ
Flemish, c. 1594
Budapest, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum
The second temptation is seen at the very top of the image.

However, by the dawn of the seventeenth century the presentation of the devil as a man, sometimes even as a religious personage, such as a hermit, or as a fallen angel became the primary image. 
Tintoretto, The First Temptation
Italian, 1579-1581
Venice, Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Paolo Veronese, The Baptism of Jesus and the First Temptation
Italian, 1582
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera

Raffaello Pagni, Christ Vanquishing the Devil After the Last Temptation
Italian, 1595
Pisa, Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Denis van Alsloot and Hendrick de Clerck, The Baptism of Christ and the First Temptation
Dutch, 1600-1630
Vienna, Liechentenstein Museum
Jan Brueghel the Elder, The First  Temptation
Flemish, c. 1600
Private Collection
Johann Koenig, The First Temptation
German, c. 1600
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum

Peter Paul Rubens, The First Temptation
Flemish, c. 1620
London, Courtauld Gallery
Paul Bril, The First Temptation
Flemish, 1626
Birmingham (UK), Birmingham Museums Trust
David Teniers the Elder, The First Temptation
Dutch, c. 1630
Private Collection
Philips Augustijn Immenraet, The First Temptation
Flemish, 1663
Warsaw, Museum of the John Paul II Collection
Eglon van der Neer, Landscape with the First Temptation
Dutch, c. 1698-1703
Munich, Alte Pinakothek

This has remained the case since that time, although the setting for the narrative is often more realistic (or more abstract) than in earlier images. 
Willilam Blake, The Final Temptation-of-Christ
English, c. 1805
London, Victoria and Albert Museum
Wiles Maddox, The First Temptaion
English, 1844
Bath (UK), Beckford's Tower Museum
Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld, The Second Temptation
German, 1847
Vienna, Belvedere Museum
Ary Scheffer, The Third Temptation
French, 1849-1854
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Carl Heinrich Bloch, The Final Temptation
Danish, 1850
Copenhagen, Frederiksborg Palace, Chapel
Giulio Masnaga, The Second Temptation
Wood Intarsia
Italian, 1877-1880
Alzano Lombardo, Church of San Martino
James Tissot, The First Temptation
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum
James Tissot, The Third Temptation
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum
It is easy to be amused by the somewhat ridiculous devils of the middle ages.  One can’t help feeling that the people of that time were perhaps less frightened of him than they were of the many natural and man-made calamities that befell them throughout their daily lives.  The temptations of Christ may have seemed to them as belonging to another reality.  Or, one might say that their just and reasonable fears coalesced into a fear so great that they chose to mock it, rather than to acknowledge it. 
Otto Dix, The Second Temptation
German, 1948
Vaduz (LIE), Otto Dix Stiftung

For those who have come after them, it is probably correct to say that they feel a reasonable fear of the devil, of evil itself, not as a grotesque figure, but as something far more serious, a proximate threat to virtue.  Something so close to daily life that it is hardly noticeable as a threat.  And, surely, that is how the devil is presented in the reading for this Sunday.  He is able to speak with Christ, in terms that tempt with attractive propositions “Show me who you are.  Make these stones turn into bread, seize political power, demonstrate your power over the angels.”  But, ultimately the power of the devil is an illusion, for what reward can he actually give to Christ, or to anyone who accedes to the whispered allurements and promptings.  After the temporary satisfaction, there is only emptiness and darkness.

© M. Duffy, 2019
  1. I will not be dealing, in this article, with one of the most famous images of the Temptations of Christ.  This most famous painting, by Sandro Botticelli, is one of the series of scenes from the lives of Christ and of Moses which decorate the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel.  They were commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV, the builder of the chapel and the person for whom it is named.  They were painted in the 1480s by several artists, who were working at the same time so as to speed the work.  However, in spite of the variety of artists, there was a definite program in place that dictated the subjects to be presented and may, to some extent, have also dictated the way in which the pictures were composed.  The program is presumed to be the work of Pope Sixtus himself and that is about where the agreement among scholars ends.  In recent decades several different interpretations for the decoration as a whole has been proposed.  In addition, the Temptations of Christ is particularly enigmatic and several different interpretations for what it actually depicts have been proposed.  I am not terribly convinced by any of them.  So, I have decided not to include this painting at this time. 
  2. There may be others that are earlier, although the two earliest manuscript New Testaments that I know of do not illustrate this subject.