The Temptation of Christ by the Devil


On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 02

The eleventh-century church of San Baudelio de Berlanga received a makeover in the early twelfth century when a workshop of painters from Catalonia was commissioned to completely cover the interior with frescoes. The paintings on San Baudelio’s upper walls depict scenes from the life of Jesus, while the lower show hunting scenes and animals, including the painting of a camel in the next gallery. At first glance, the upper and lower paintings’ very different subjects might seem unrelated to each other, but medieval viewers understood that the lower paintings’ symbolism and the upper’s storytelling complemented each other.

This section of the San Baudelio fresco depicts Jesus’s temptations by the devil. As described in the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus fasted forty days in the desert, the devil first commands him to turn stones into bread, then demands he leap from the Temple in Jerusalem, and finally offers him all the kingdoms of the world. Only the first two temptations are shown here at left and center, while at right the angel alludes to the outcome of the third temptation, in which Jesus is ministered by angels. The scenes’ side-by-side placement, calling for figures’ repetition in the manner of a comic strip, indicates the passage of time.

The Temptation of Christ by the Devil, Fresco transferred to canvas, Spanish

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