Tempting St. Anthony: Epilepsy, Masturbation and Iconophobia
Friday, August 21st, 2009
Colin Dickey discusses the history of the Temptation of St. Anthony, the story of the 4th century desert ascetic who was tortured by hordes of demons and would go on to become the patron saint of skin diseases. Anthony became a popular subject during the Renaissance, when painters such as Heironymous Bosch, Matias Grunewald and Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicted these torments in a series of ever more fantastical and grotesque animals, and in the 19th century it became a lifelong obsession for Gustave Flaubert, who spent decades trying to craft his own retelling of the saint’s life. Topics to be discussed include: epilepsy, ergotism, demonic possession, madness, the scourge of masturbation and its relationship to capitalism, and Flaubert’s very complicated feelings about images, photographic and otherwise.