The Hermit in Botticelli’s Temptations of Christ

The Hermit in Botticelli’s Temptations of Christ

The Temptations of Christ is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, executed in 1480–1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.
In 1480 Botticelli, together with a couple other Florentine painters, left for Rome, where he had been called as part of the reconciliation project between Lorenzo de’ Medici, the de facto ruler of Florence, and Pope Sixtus IV. The Florentines started to work in the Sistine Chapel as early as the Spring of 1481.
The theme of the decoration of the Chapel was a parallel between the Stories of Moses and those of Christ, showing the continuity between the Old and the New Testament. It also was meant to prove the continuity between the divine law of the Tables and the message of Jesus, who has chosen Peter, the first bishop of Rome, as his successor. This would finally result in the legitimation of the latter’s successors, the popes of Rome.
The subject of the title takes place in three scenes in the upper section of the fresco. On the left (1), Jesus, who has been fasting, is tempted by the Devil, in the guise of a hermit, to turn stones into bread. In the second scene of temptation, at the upper centre of the picture (2), the same hermit has carried Jesus to the top of the temple of Jerusalem. The hermit tempts Jesus to challenge God’s promise that he will be protected by angels, by throwing himself down. In the third temptation, to the upper right (3), the hermit has taken Jesus to a high mountain where he shows him the beauties of the Earth. The hermit promises Jesus power over this domain if he will deny God and bow down to him. Jesus reveals the true identity of the hermit and sends the Devil away.
According to Giordano Berti, recently the author of Sola-Busca Tarot was identified as the Florentine painter Nicola di maestro Antonio, who would have completed the 78 images before 1491.
Intriguingly, the Hermit card of the Sola-Busca Tarot deck looks very similar to the hermit from Botticelli’s Temptations of Christ. The Hermit and The Devil make quite an odd couple.

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