Luca Giordano - inv. 200

Luca Giordano (1634-1705)

Saint Anthony abbot
1650 c.
74,6 x 63,4 cm
1880 acquisition 
Inv. 200

Trivulzio Room
Go to:

This painting was attributed to Jusepe de Ribera, called Lo Spagnoletto (1591-1652). This attribution was not groundless, since Luca Giordano was in Naples a pupil of Ribera, who at the beginning of the 17th century was one of the leaders of the renewed Neapolitan School, closely following Caravaggio's austere realism. This painting clearly shows the influence of Ribera’s style on Luca Giordano.

The saint has been portrayed half-length and his black habit and the dark background give great emphasis to his face and hands. His face is illuminated and his fervent eyes gaze upwards. His hands too are in full light: the left holds a book on with burning coals, while the right holds one of saint's traditional attributes a tau shaped stick with a bell. The coals allude to the tradition that attributed the saint with healing powers for the illness commonly called the fires of Saint Anthony, or shingles.
A hermit, poor and long-lived, Saint Anthony was also a traveller, a healer and the founder of monasticism. His gnarled hands and, even more, the detail of his dirty nails allude with vigorous realism to the poverty and difficulty of solitary life. His habit with hood recalls the existence of the community he founded. Finally his face: so expressive with its hollowed cheeks, deep lines and soft, rather wispy beard, it most effectively communicates the authority and the spirituality of the saint.