The Temptations of St. Anthony the Abbot
46.4 x 58.2 cm; oil on wood panel (FC 419)
Along with two others, this panel portrays the various phases of the life of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the pioneer of monasticism. In the first scene he gives his worldly goods away to the poor: then, dressed in a monk’s habit and with a τ shaped staff he is tempted with money offered by demons. Finally, the demons ill-treat him: one of these is derived from a print by Schongauer, Dürer’s mentor. The triptych is from the more mature phase of the artist, towards the ninth decade of the 15th century, when he was at the court in Mantua. The perfectly preserved panels show strong links to Andrea Mantegna’s work, and the relief with putti is a reference to a sarcophagus portrayed by an artist of the Squarcione circle. It is known that Bernardo also realised a number of drawings very similar to the works by Mantegna and the Squarcione circle, though something in the torment depicted here also brings to mind Cosme Tura and Ercole de’ Roberti of Ferrara.