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Anthony, the hermit saint also known as Anthony the Great, was born in Upper Egypt. On the death of his parents he distributed his property among the poor and retired into the Egyptian desert where he remained in solitude for many years. Thus he is generally regarded as the founder of monasticism. Like other hermits, he was subject to vivid hallucinations resulting from his austere lifestyle. These visions assume two forms in art, assault by evil spirits or erotic temptation. Roberts's painting focuses on Anthony's temptation by lust. Usually Anthony protects himself with a crucifix or by prayer, but here is seen shielding himself with his arms alone, his prayer books by his side.

August 2004