MS M.917/945, pp. 248–249

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St. Anthony

The Netherlands, Utrecht
ca. 1440
7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm)

Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963

MS M.917/945, pp. 248–249

Anthony reads from an open book while leaning on a cane. The cane has a bell hanging from its handle additional bells hang from the neck of the pig and in the belfry of the pink building to his right. That building and the enclosure surrounded by a woven fence might allude to twenty years the saint spent at Fort Pispir where he spurned the company, or even the sight, of other men. Because of both his asceticism and the community of disciples that grew up around him during his self-imposed isolation, Anthony represents the founding of Christian monastic practice. The artist shows his virtuosity by minutely capturing the atmospheric effects of the swirling haze that obscures the castle in the far background.


Suffrages are short prayers to individual saints. As protectors of medieval people, saints were their doctor in plague, their midwife at childbirth, their guardian when traveling, and their nurse during toothache. If the Virgin was the figure to whom one addressed the all-important petition for eternal salvation, it was from saints that one sought more basic or temporal kinds of help. While the Virgin became, as the Mother of God, almost a goddess herself, saints retained more of their humanity and thus their approachability.


Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern