National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Temptation of Christ Juan de Flandes (artist)
Hispano-Flemish, active 1496 - 1519
The Temptation of Christ, c. 1500/1504
oil on panel
painted surface: 21 x 15.5 cm (8 1/4 x 6 1/8 in.) overall (panel): 21.3 x 16 cm (8 3/8 x 6 5/16 in.) framed: 25.4 x 20.3 cm (10 x 8 in.)
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
On View
From the Tour: Netherlandish Painting in the 1400s
Object 9 of 9

This small panel, along with Sittow's Assumption of the Virgin, was made for an elaborate altarpiece in the private chapel of Queen Isabella of Spain. Most of the jewellike panels -- there were more than forty in all -- were painted by this artist, who must have been Netherlandish but moved to Spain to work for the court. Probably they were among his earliest commissions. Later the panels were admired by the great German artist Albrecht Dürer for their unequaled "precision and excellence."

Here the three temptations of Christ, described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, are illustrated with great narrative delight. In the foreground, the devil, horned and with demon's feet though clad in a monk's robe, tempts the hungry Christ to turn stones into bread. In the distance at left he offers the kingdoms of the world from a mountain top; and on the right, from the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, the devil challenges Christ to hurl himself down without injury.

The dramatic encounter is set in a landscape typical, not of the biblical wilderness described in the Gospels, but of a northern town. The soft air fades to blue in the distance, helping the eye to see the recession of space. The composition may have been based on models from manuscript illumination. While in Spain, Juan de Flandes's style became broader and less delicate; though he later painted larger works, he continued to delight in narrative detail.

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