James Ensor. Tribulations of Saint Anthony. 1887

James Ensor

Tribulations of Saint Anthony


Oil on canvas
46 3/8 x 66" (117.8 x 167.6 cm)
Object number
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 5, in a Collection Gallery, with 17 other works online.
James Ensor has 51 works online.
There are 2,370 paintings online.

One of Ensor's earliest fantastical paintings, this work recreates the familiar story of Saint Anthony battling a world of temptations (embodied by the woman at the far left). Ensor described his version of the narrative as one in which "the bizarre prevails" as Hell expels menacing sea creatures and grotesque monsters haphazardly joined together within a colorful, loosely rendered landscape.

Inspired by earlier renditions of the story by Flemish artists Hieronymus Bosch (Netherlandish, 1453–1516) and Pieter Brueghel (Flemish, 1525–1569), Ensor brought a fresh interpretation to a familiar subject by combining invented figures with wild brushstrokes and audacious color choices. On the basis of this painting, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the founding director of The Museum of Modern Art, described Ensor as possibly "the boldest living painter" in 1887.

Gallery label from James Ensor, June 28–September 21, 2009

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Herbert von Garvens-Garvensburg, Hanover, Germany; later Bornholm, Denmark. By 1922 – 1940
Karl Nierendorf Gallery, New York. Agent for von Garvens, 1940
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Nierendorf, 1940

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