James Ensor’s Tribulations of Saint Anthony

James Ensor‘s Tribulations of Saint Anthony. I was earlier reading the catalog to a 1997 exhibition at the Barbican – James Ensor: Theatre of Masks, 1860-1949 – and felt they didn’t sufficiently highlight the influence of Bosch and Bruegel on the artist’s middle period (and neglected Quentin Matysys altogether, as everyone does). They push the case for closely connecting Ensor’s mature work to the great cartoonist-satirists like William Hogarth, James Gillray, George Cruikshank, and Thomas Rowlandson but do so at the price of downplaying the role of the Flemish masters in his developmental/transitional phases. This work from 1887 falls dead between his beginnings (1880ish) and his first extensive use of the more ‘cartoony’ masks in the early 1890s. It’s also right on the cusp of his heightened interest in religious imagery. The relations should be obvious below and the significance of their influence to me is in their giving him a ‘high art’ satirical grammar that better smoothed the way to exploring and developing whatever you want to call his own final style (see bottom for example).

Here is Brueghel’s Temptation of Saint Anthony:

And Bosch’s Lisbon triptych:
And a Temptation from the Prado that has shared attribution between Joachim Patinir and Quentyn Matsys. If you know either painter, you’ll quickly give the background to Patinir and the figures-faces to Matsys:

Pierrot and Skeleton in Yellow:

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