Saint Anthony Abbot
Attributed to Nikolaus von Hagenau German
The legend of Saint Anthony Abbot, a fourth-century Egyptian hermit, tells of the saint’s heroic resistance to the devil’s torments. Here, he triumphs over the devil, who writhes under his feet. The saint’s staff originally would have impaled the monster’s mouth. Saint Anthony’s order was founded in Europe in the eleventh century and was dedicated to the care of the sick. The Antonites had two hospitals in the Alsace—at Isenheim and Strasbourg—and this intense, expressive, and psychologically charged figure may have been made for one of them. Carved in the round, it may have been carried in procession and placed on an altar shrine or on a bracket against a column. The exceptional carving of the face, beard, and hair suggests the authorship of Nikolaus von Hagenau, one of the most gifted Upper Rhenish sculptors working about 1500.
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