Jesus and the Tempter.
 Juan, de Flandes, approximately 1465-1519

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Title:Jesus and the Tempter

In 1475, the Dominican practice of the rosary was revived in Germany and quickly became widespread among Dominicans, Benedictines, and Carthusians. Pope Sixtus IV, a Franciscan who served from 1472-1484, also encouraged the practice through papal bulls and indulgences.

The devil in Juan de Flandes' painting wears clerical garb and carries rosary beads, a clear contemporary reference to the new rosary practices, which carried with them the promise of remission of punishment for confessed sins through indulgences. This fashioning of the devil as an active, practicing cleric was a popular motif in Temptation-themed art of the period. What it signifies is less clear; does the rosary indicate that, with Mary's intercession and Christ's grace, even the devil can be saved? Or is it a less benign fashioning, indicating that the devil is very clever and can disguise himself in the garb of the faithful?

Another interpretation of this painting is also possible, and perhaps dually present. Some scholars saw a parallel in the New Testament text of Jesus' temptation with Moses' visits to Mount Sinai, which lasted 40 days. Jesus' time in the Wilderness is also a parallel to the Israelite's wanderings, per the 40 years and the appearance of bread/manna. Note the horns on the head of the figure of the devil -- horns were a sign for Moses, as indicated in the Vulgate version of the Old Testament story, Exodus 34:29-35.

Date:ca. 1500
Artist:Juan, de Flandes, approximately 1465-1519
Building:National Gallery of Art (U.S.)
Country:United States

Scripture:Matthew 4:1-11
Luke 4:1-13
Lectionary links:ALent01
General Subject:Temptation of Christ

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Attribution:Juan, de Flandes, approximately 1465-1519. Jesus and the Tempter, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved April 17, 2024]. Original source:
Record Number:54301 Last Updated: 2021-08-17 07:19:39 Record Created: 2010-02-18 16:54:53
Institution:Vanderbilt University Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition

Bibliographic Source:A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgences in the Latin Church Part Three
Author:Lea, Henry Charles
Publisher:Kessinger Publishing