Paintings | 16th Century | Mattia Preti | St. Anthony the Abbot | Artwork profile

62 x 62 cm
Oil on canvas



St. Anthony the Abbot

Mattia Preti

The subject

The Saint depicted in this round canvas is Anthony the Abbot, also known as Anthony the Anchorite. Originally from Coma in Egypt where he lived in the 3rd century, Anthony stood out for his poor and ascetic life. His hagiography tells of a life lived on the margins of the city in deserted places where he fasted and meditated.

Also famous are the traditional stories of Satan’s many attempts to tempt him, which he always rejected, especially during his time in the desert. He is credited with the permanent creation of families of monks that worked under the guidance of a spiritual father or abbà (a word derived from the Greek that means father), devoting themselves to the service of God.

Given the strong moral message that his austere figure conveyed, St. Anthony was a widely used subject in figurative religious art. At times portrayed in simple clothing, other times in a monk’s habit, his most frequent iconographic features were his walking stick on top of which was placed a handbell and a book of the sacred scriptures.

The painting

Maurizio Marini believes that Mattia Preti painted this work during his Roman period when he was still a young artist. After arriving in the papal city in 1628 to reunite with his brother Gregorio, also a painter, Preti learned the chiaroscuro and dramatic naturalism techniques of Caravaggio, of whom he was perhaps already an admirer in Naples.

It is likely that this work was produced after he had learned of similar images by Guercino and Mola, but also Ribera, given the evident hints of the punctilious descriptive manner synonymous with the 18th century Spanish master.