Sandro Botticelli: The temptations of Christ (1480-1482)


(Sistine Chapel, Rome, Italy)

A fresco by the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510). This fresco forms part of the decorations of the Sistine chapel in Rome which shows the life of Christ. The fresco shows three temptations of Christ during his stay in the desert:

- top left: the devil, disguised as a monk, tries to tempt Christ to turn stone into bread - “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone"

- Top center: the devil, again disguised as a monk, has carried Christ to the top of a church (here the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia in Rome). The devil tempts Christ to jump to challenge God's promise the he will be protected by angels. Jesus responded that God must never be put to the test.

- top right: the devil has taken Christ to a high mountain and shows Christ all the kingdoms of the earth and says: “All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus answers him: “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

The lower scene is a purification and sacrificial ritual by a person, probably the leper who had been cleansed by Christ (Matthew 8:1–4). There are several explanations how this scene is linked to the three temptations - the high priest may symbolize Moses who received and transmitted the Law, the young man may symbolize Christ who was wounded and slain for the benefit of mankind, and healed through the Resurrection so that mankind might also be made spiritually clean, and receive salvation.

Fresco from 1480-1482.

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