Surrealism is perhaps the last of the great avant-gardes that emerged before the outbreak of World War II, a conflict that would shake Europe to its foundations; the current revolved around the figure of André Breton but many artists joined his ranks, including the well-known Spanish painter Salvador Dalí. Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989) was one of the most outstanding artistic figures of surrealism, an excellent draftsman and colorist. The painter was not satisfied with carrying out some of the most outstanding pictorial pieces of his time, but was also a sculptor, choreographer, engraver… The dream world on which the surrealist trend is based takes on a new dimension in Dalí's paintings with a style so unique that it ends up being unmistakable.
On this occasion we analyze a canvas by the artist from Figueras which is titled The Temptations of Saint Anthony. It is an oil on canvas of small dimensions and vertical format that measures about one hundred and nineteen centimeters high and ninety centimeters wide. The piece was painted in the mid-20th century, specifically in 1946, and is currently on display at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium.
In it, the Catalan artist refers to the strong religious bond that he experiences with a work that represents The Temptations of Saint Anthony. In the foreground and with a marked Dalí diagonalrepresents San Antonio Abad, the founder of the eremitical movement, completely naked and extremely thin; he is on his knees with a nimbus over his head and as the only protection he presents a cross made of wood that he wields to protect himself from temptations.
Dalí has represented the main temptations of man as if it were a cavalcade: in the foreground, a runaway white horse with worn and dusty hooves that refers to the ambition that plagues men. Behind the equine three elephants appear, the first of them carries a pedestal with a completely naked woman who is exhibited before the saint and who would represent sexual lust, the next two are a reference to ambition with a throne and a house made gold.
The set takes place in a desert landscape with a bluish sky in which black clouds appear behind the retinue of temptations and that symbolize the precariousness that the saint must go through until reach sainthood.