HELMOND CIRCA 1495/1500 - CIRCA 1570 BRUSSELS
THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST
oil on oak panel
41.6 by 54 cm.; 16 1/4 by 21 1/4 in.The temptation of Christ is detailed in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. According to these texts, after being baptized, Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the Judaean Desert. During this time, Satan appeared to Jesus and tried to tempt him. Jesus having refused each temptation, the devil then departed and Jesus returned to Galilee.
Mark's account is very brief, merely noting the event. Matthew and Luke describe the temptations by recounting the details of the conversations between Jesus and Satan.
Discussion of the literary genre includes whether what is represented is a history, a parable, a myth, or compound of various genres. This relates to the "reality" of the encounter. Sometimes the temptation narrative is taken as a parable, reading that Jesus in his ministry told this narrative to audiences relating his inner experience in the form of a parable. Or it is autobiographical, regarding what sort of Messiah Jesus intended to be.
Lucas Gassel (c. 1490 – 1568) was a Flemish Renaissance painter. According to Karel van Mander he was a landscape painter greatly admired by Dominicus Lampsonius, who was also his friend.
According to the RKD he left Helmond around 1520 for Antwerp. He is known for landscapes, cityscapes, and architectural works. He moved to Brussels, where he later died.
In this painting, the distinctive handling of the dense clumps of trees, the distant architecture and the stocky principal figures are all strongly characteristic of Lucas Gassel, and argue for a dating in the 1540s. Though Gassel was a Brussels painter, there is much evidence to suggest that he trained in Antwerp. The construction of the landscape is complex, revealing an interest in geological formations and the colour and stratification of rocks in remarkable detail and innate naturalism. The artist has given his imagination full rein, both in the natural features and the extravagant architecture of the distant city of Jerusalem, and the more distant fortifications and the roof tops of towns seen on the horizon. In the foreground, apes, symbols of the devil, disport themselves.
Here the artist has represented two of three temptations in his composition; in the centre the devil, dressed in a monk's habit, tempts Jesus to break his fast by turning stones into bread. The second scene is depicted atop the mountain in the distance; the devil offers Christ all the kingdoms and glory should he bow down before him.