Torment Of St Anthony By Giovanni Essay Outline

What could be harder than living in the desert for several decades? Being tormented by

the devil like St. Anthony was drastically increased his desert hardships as depicted in the

painting. The feeling I got from the painting Torment of St. Anthony by Giovanni

Girolamo Savoldo is one of perseverance. The elements and principles of Art that create

this feeling are deep, rich color, the effects of light, and meticulously detailed figures.

According to Athanasius (The Greek Vita of Athanasius. Ed. by G. J. M.

Bartelink), the devil tormented St Anthony by afflicting him with boredom, laziness, and

the phantoms of women. He overcame all of these hardships by the power of prayer,

which provides a theme for Christian art like Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo’s work

Torment of St. Anthony. With Savoldo’s use of deep, rich color, the effects of light, and

meticulously detailed figures he affectively conveys this power of prayer and sense of

perseverance I felt.

The deep, rich color shown in Torment of St. Anthony by Giovanni is very vivid.

Giovanni uses very bright almost warm colors on one side of the work, while very dark

and bleak shades dominate the other half of the painting. This helps establish the

contradiction of St. Anthony’s life. On one side he has the bliss of faith in God and the

power of prayer. Yet, the dark colors on the other side show the pain and suffering

inflicted by the devil. This clash of colors sets the stage for St. Anthony’s struggle.

Now that the stage has been set with Giovanni’s use of color, he furthers the

dramatic overtone with conflicting lighting. Torment of St. Anthony by Giovanni depicts

unusual effects of light. Just like the clash of color there is a clash of light as well. On one

end of the painting the scene is very illuminated; the skies are pristine and very blue. This again I feel conveys the power of prayer. On the other hand the right side of the painting

is very dark. The sky is so bleak it gives a sense of brooding and despair. I would

describe it as nocturnally lit

...

Grand masterpieces of art are not only famous because talented artists produced them, but because they are produced with alternative perspectives. These paintings, sculptures, or other pieces of art have some unique characteristic that sets them apart from the ordinary thus making them extraordinary. One such example of an extraordinary unique piece of art is the painting, Torment of Saint Anthony painted by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.

            Art historians have estimated that Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo was born between 1480-1485 in or around the city of Brescia in northern Italy. However the earliest records of Savoldo show that he was living near the city of Parma and was a member of the Florentine painter’s guild in 1508.[1]

Savoldo is also referred to as Girolamo da Brescia thus named because he was a student at the Brescian school. As a diligent painter he adopted the school’s style which was well known for its distinctive “quiet lyricism.”[2] During his lifetime, he moved to Venice and married a Flemish woman, through whom he may have made Northern contacts, which aided him later on in his career. Scholars have found it especially difficult to pinpoint his artistic influences due to a lack of change in his style throughout his career.[3]

However, what is clear in his work is his use of “clearly defined shapes in light, suggests he was influenced by Cima da Congliano, who also used light with quiet exactitude.”[4] Cima da Congliano was a well renowned painter of the time who may have also been based in Parma around the same time Savoldo was there. In addition, it has also been suggested that Savoldo could have been influenced by Flemish painters, through his wife’s familial connections. It has been speculated that he may have left Venice, where he spent most of his life, to live in Milan for a few years; however the reason for the move is unknown. However he returned and lived in Venice from the mid 1520s until the end of his life in the late 1540s.[5]

After his death his work was largely forgotten over the many centuries until interest was revived in the 20th century; when it regained a place of prominence alongside other “High Renaissance painters.”[6] He was given this honor because his work is known for “combining an intense fidelity to realistic description of surfaces with both attention to veristic (From the Italian word, verism; meaning “artistic use of contemporary everyday material in preference to the heroic or legendary especially in grand opera”)[7] effects of light and an interest in figural movement and expression.”

In his particular piece, Torment of Saint Anthony, Savoldo depicts Saint Anthony, fleeing from a vision of hell to a peaceful landscape with his hands clasped in prayer. His hands point to the monastery painted in the background, a subtle reminder that he was the father of monasticism. [8]

Ironically, the painting is laid out with “no literal correspondence to the successive moments of the torments as they are narrated by Saint Athanasius.”[9] In the written history of St. Anthony there is never a time when the saint runs away from demons or a vision of hell, especially of ones “who either tempt him with lust, nostalgia for the world, gold and silver, or else beat him harshly, make terrible noises, and appear to him the guise of reptiles or wild beasts.”[10] In actuality St. Anthony has unflinching fortitude even though there is no “escape from the temptation or a place of evil to one of salvation, from a world of darkness and fire to one of comforting natural safety.”[11] St. Anthony remains a tremendous example for people today striving to turn away from temptation and running toward the Lord, and salvation.

Instead Savoldo decides to artistically display the contrast between good and evil.  His painting demonstrates how St. Anthony never gave in to temptation but kept moving toward God, in this case represented by a monastery, and away from Satan represented by scenes found in Hell. Savoldo similar to other northern Italian painters of his time, were interested in and influenced by Flemish art especially painting; particularly the work of “Hieronymous Bosch’s nightmarish monsters.” Similarities can be found between Bosch’s art and Savoldo’s depiction of St. Anthony’s tormentors.[12]

In addition, St. Anthony is the protector against the viral illness shingles, known as “St. Anthony’s fire.” It is without coincidence that Savoldo decided to depict St. Anthony in the painting thus transforming “an attribute of the saint into a narrative element and an imaginary place in which to tell his story, clarifying it by opposing the fire as a metaphor for hell with the serene ‘desert’ of remote places with no respect for chronological order, for the essential unity of place in the written text, or even for a consistent history. Anthony’s struggle with the demons is in effect a physical and moral struggle that does not take place solely in the mind or the imagination.”[13]

Savoldo implemented an emerging style called “secular narrative genre”[14] which was popular in Venice during the early years of the Cinquecento. Art historians have ventured to say that Torment of Saint Anthony displays a significant transition in style and could “represent one of the earliest examples of the application of the type to a sacred story.”[15]

Furthermore, the painting is a perfect example of how art and faith can be successfully integrated. Savoldo’s subject is faith based, but his canvas, literally and figuratively, is a unique artistic expression of both. In addition, the art piece transcends the story of St. Anthony and welcomes the viewer to look a little further beyond the surface level, and discover more about what unites his fortitude and strength to deter temptation.

            Art historians have had great difficulty pinpointing where Torment of Saint Anthony, oil on panel painting, was produced during the years 1515-1520; some believe it could have been completed while Savoldo was in Milan. However, others believe it was crafted while he was in Venice or Parma due to the obvious artistic influences that were present there during that time. Perhaps, even more interesting than the location of origin is why the painting exists. Over the years it has been plausibly suggested that the Savoldo oil painting could be a commissioned piece for a building belonging to the order, in which the monastery in the background belonged. A similar commissioning occurred for the church of the Carmine, now in the Museo Civico depicting Saint Anthony Abott dressed as a “Carmelite in Squarcione’s polyptych.” [16]

The history of ownership of the Savoldo painting is unknown throughout the many centuries, until a record of sale was documented on April 27, 1960 when Dr. William Dean of England sold it to Sotheby, an art institute in London. The piece was then acquired in 1965 at auction as lot 91[17]  by the Putnam Sisters, who would later found the Putnam Foundation. The Putnam Foundation began as a serendipitous relationship between sisters, Anne R. and Amy Putnam; “members of the Ohio-based Timken family and San Diego attorney Walter Ames. The Putnam sisters arrived in San Diego in the early 1900s from Vermont, accompanied by their elderly parents.” The Putnam sisters spent decades acquiring European old master paintings and loaned their collection to prestigious museums around the country until the Timken Museum of Art opened in 1965.[18]Torment of Saint Anthony has been hanging among the other Italian art pieces since in the Timken Museum located in Balboa Park.

I visited the Putnam Foundation exhibit at the Timken Museum with Emily Gabrelcik earlier this quarter. Simply, I had no idea what to expect or what piece of art I might want to write a paper on, because I would consider myself to be pretty picky when it comes to what type of art I find myself gravitated towards. I tend to appreciate more contemporary art, involving artistic expression, rather than classic collections from the masters, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I enjoyed the art at the Timken. I found that the collection the museum had on display contained deeper and richer color than I would have expected for art that was produced during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Two paintings stood out to me after my first glance around each of the different galleries; the first was Christ on the Cross by Bartolome E. Murrillo and the second was Torment of Saint Anthony by Giovanni Giolamo Savoldo. Each painting had marvelous features that compelled me to stand and gaze for several moments. However, the Savoldo painting beckoned me to return several times, so I could take in all of the small scenes and appreciate its complexities.

Earlier this quarter I learned in class about the sectioning off of small portions in an individual painting, in order to tell a story; the Torment of Saint Anthony has such a feature. It is because of this feature that I felt as though I made a connection to the piece of art, because as I, too am a storyteller. I immediately wanted to begin researching and breaking down what exactly the oil was trying to convey on the panel. I remember gazing at the painting wondering how this complicated sequence fit together; where was the beginning, the middle, and the end.  I believe this thought process would only occur to those who are aware of the unique structure of story and how it is the foundation to any art form. There is no doubt in my mind, that Torment of Saint Anthony painted by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo almost 500 years ago is a masterpiece, because it continues to resonate with people, such as myself today.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Balboa Park in San Diego, California. “History.” Timken Museum of Art.

http://www.timkenmuseum.org/about/history (accessed March 2, 2012).

Balboa Park in San Diego, California. “Torment of St. Anthony.” Timken Museum of Art. http://www.timkenmuseum.org/collection/italian/torment-st-anthony (accessed March 2, 2012).

Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136-39. Print.

Emery, Elizabeth, and Laurie Postlewate. Medieval Saints in Late Nineteenth Century French Culture: Eight Essays. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &, 2004. 48-49. Print.

Freedberg, Sydney J. (1993). Pelican History of Art. ed. Painting in Italy, 1500-1600. Penguin Books Ltd. 340–344. Print.

Joannides, Paul. Titian to 1518: The Assumption of Genius. New Haven: Yale UP, 2001. 94. Print.

Kelly, Michael A., and Mark A. O’Brien. “Volume 14 of Atf Series.” Wisdom for Life. Adelaide, Australia: ATF, 2005. 94. Print.

Kuiper, Kathleen. The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010. 230-231. Print.

Lewis, Cynthia. Particular Saints: Shakespeare’s Four Antonios, Their Contexts, and Their Plays. Newark, DE: University of Delaware, 1997. 198. Print.

National Gallery of Art, and Samuel H. Kress Foundation. “Volume 1.” Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. University of Minnesota: National Gallery of Art (U.S.), 1951. 275. Print.

Rose, Mary Beth. Essays on Dramatic Traditions: Challenges and Transmissions. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, and the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies, 1989. 233. Print.

“Verism.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 02 Mar. 2012. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/verism&gt;.


[1] Kuiper, Kathleen. The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010. 230

[2] Kuiper, Kathleen. The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010. 230

[3] Kuiper, Kathleen. The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010. 230

[4] Kuiper, Kathleen. The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010. 230

[5] Kelly, Michael A., and Mark A. O’Brien. “Volume 14 of Atf Series.” Wisdom for Life. Adelaide, Australia: ATF, 2005. 94.

[6] Kuiper, Kathleen. The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010. 230

[8] Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136

[9] Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136

[10] Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136

[11] Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136

[12] Kuiper, Kathleen. The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010. 230

[13] Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136

[14] Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136

[15] Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136

[16] Brown, David Alan, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Jaynie Anderson, and Barbara Hepburn. Berrie. “23, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.” Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2006. 136

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