The present painting is a fine example of the highly popular Bosschian genre of painting, which developed in the course of the 16th century in Antwerp and elsewhere, adapting Bosch's specific thematic and formal idiom in numerous variations and imitations. This idiom was mostly distributed through prints, for instance by Hieronymus Cock and Alart du Hameel. The rooster-like creature with a peacock feather shaped ear in the lower right corner in the present composition, and the small humanoid figure with the headdress in the foreground, also appear in the engraving of the 'Last Judgement' after Bosch by Alart du Hameel (Holl. 2). The female figure may derive from Jan Mandijn, as she also appears in painting of the same subject attributed to the studio of Mandijn (Drouot, Paris, 10 November 1975, lot 49).
The subject of the Temptation of Saint Anthony is most frequently treated by Bosch and was most popular among his numerous imitators and followers. Bosch's main rendering of the subject is the central compartment of the triptych in the National Museum in Lisbon, of which there is a copy in the Muses Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels. The present composition echoes that of the Lisbon triptych, with the tower like structure in the centre and houses on fire in the left background. Yet, in contrast to Bosch, the atmosphere is now more friendly, replacing the physical pressure of the Saint by a mental one. As explained by Larry Silver this softer and more entertaining mood is characteristic for the imitations of the period (see: L. Silver, 'Second Bosch. Family Resemblance and the Marketing of Art', in: Art for the Market, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 50, 1999, p. 37).
Dendrochronological analysis of the pine wood support by Prof. Dr. Peter Klein has established a terminus post quem of 1557 for the present painting. The use of pine wood may indicate that the present painting is the product of an anonymous follower of Bosch, active outside The Netherlands
We would like to thank Matthijs Ilsink for his help in cataloguing this lot. Prof. Dr. Klein's report, dated 14 October 2011, is available to the buyer.