Saturday, January 1, 2011

An ode to Schongauer

Martin Schongauer's  The Temptation of St. Anthony is a riotous explosion of the imagination.  Schongauer renders his saint in the moment of ecstatic levitation, when devils and demons join him in the air (generally the element of angels) and plague him with physical and mental tortures. The print was a major hit in Renaissance Europe, inspiring Michelangelo and Dürer, among others. Leonardo later wrote that fantastic creatures are born in the artist's mind as a mix of the many animals he had ever seen. Schongauer's demons are believable in much the same way, merging fish, fowl and beast into a fantastic new whole.
Martin Schongauer, The Temptation of St. Anthony.  Copperplate engraving. Germany, 1470s.
The left-most demon with the club has always been one of my favorites. I always saw him with a flute for a nose, though Schongauer does not render him so.  Earlier this summer I re-imagined the demon as a musician.  Demons and the playing of music have been joined since the dawn of the Christian age, so it seems appropriate to me that Schongauer's demon may have played his nose as a flute from time to time, singing his own words in accompaniment. 

"Piping Demon" Pen and ink. Copyright 2011 Jessica Boehman


  1. I have a degree in Art History, and MS's The Temptation of St. Anthony was what "turned me on" to that major in college--will always have a special place in my heart. Love your "piping demon" :-)

  2. That's great...I have my PhD in Ren and Baroque, so I have a special place in my heart for him, too!