Lorenzo di Niccolò Spinello Aretino
painting, ca. 1385
Tempera and gold on panel
232.4 x 92.1 x 22.2 cm (91 1/2 x 36 1/4 x 8 3/4 inches)
Gift of Jesse H. Metcalf 16.243
Saint Anthony Abbot was an early Christian monk who was born in Egypt and spent many years praying in solitude, inspiring others to follow his example of poverty, chastity, and prayer. He is portrayed here in the role of Abbot, or spiritual father, seated on a throne before two kneeling patrons. His costume, consisting of a black robe and a white cape, is typical of that worn by Benedictine monks in 14th-century Italy, suggesting that Saint Anthony served as a model for their contemplative life and that this representation may have been commissioned for one of their churches. His staff serves as both a crutch and a shepherd’s crook, while the small pig at his feet is one of many symbols associated with Saint Anthony’s power to heal ailments as wide ranging as epilepsy and skin diseases.