Aertgen Claesz. van Leyden: The Calling of Saint Antony (1530)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A painting by the Dutch artist Aertgen Claesz. van Leyden (1498-1564). The painting depicts the moment of the calling of Saint Anthony the Great (A.D. 251-356). Athony was the son of wealthy landowners in Egypt but when he heard the words "Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21), the saint decided to dedicate his life to God. The saint gave away his possessions and left to live an ascetic life and retiring into the desert, becoming the first monk. Aertgen shows the moment of the conversions as a sermon with Saint Anthony being the man on the right in blue with a fur-lined cloak. In the background the saint can be seen giving bread to the poor. The six men on the right, including the man in blue, are propably the donors of this painting as their faces are painted with great care and attention to detail. The Tau cross and bell hanging from a chain around the neck of the man in blue, who serves here as saint Anthony, is a member of the knightly Brotherhood of Saint Antony - it is suggested that the man is propably Jacques de Ligne (1500-1552), Baron de Ligne et le Beloeil, Count of Fauquemberg. A nice detail is the painted fly on the hood of the kneeling woman in the middle - an illusionistic joke by the painter (viewers would try to remove the fly but find out that the fly is painted - a trick by the painter to show 'how good he is in painting'). Painting from 1530