Osservanza Master (Italian [Siena], active second quarter of 15th century)
Tempera on panel; Overall 18 3/4 x 13 9/16 in. (47.8 x 34.5 cm); painted surface 18 7/16 x 13 1/4 in. (46.8 x 33.5 cm)
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.27)
Like many works by the Master of the Osservanza, this painting was at one time ascribed to the fifteenth-century Sienese painter Sassetta. It belongs to an elaborate cycle of eight panels representing scenes from the life of Saint Anthony Abbot. The painter's penchant for highly descriptive narrative detail is abundantly displayed in the simple church, barren trees, rocky path, gentle fauna (symbols of Anthony's temptations), and, most strikingly, the light-streaked sky at dusk. The ground at the lower left, now empty, originally showed a pot of gold, a symbol of seductive worldly goods that the stalwart saint resists. The detail was scraped away during the painting's early history, making Saint Anthony's recoiling gesture seem incongruous.