User:Jahsonic/In search of 'the devil in guise of a woman' in the history of the iconography of the Temptation of Saint Anthony
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In search of 'the devil in guise of a woman' in the history of the iconography of the Temptation of Saint Anthony
In the iconography of the Temptation of Saint Anthony, one frequently encounters that the devil came to Saint Anthony in the guise of a woman. The earliest representation I have been able to trace of this 'devil disguised as a woman' is in the Master of the Osservanza Triptych
I've been trying to trace the provenance of this disguuised woman, contemporary sources on which these painters based themselves.
The closest I came up with in early sources is this passage in the Caxton edition of The Golden Legend, which talks of the devil of fornication:
- "On a time when he [Saint Anthony] had overcome the spirit of fornication, the devil came to him in the form of a little child all black, and fell down at his feet and confessed that he was the devil of fornication, which S. Anthony had desired and prayed to see him, for to know him that so tempted young people. Then said S. Anthony : ' Sith I have perceived that thou art so foul a thing, I shall never doubt thee.'" 
- "[Demons] approach in different guise, and thenceforth shaping displays they attempt to strike fear, changing their shapes, taking the forms of women, wild beasts, creeping things, gigantic bodies, and troops of soldiers."
Found the original Latin: "assumentes nunc mulierum, nunc bestiarum, nunc serpentium formas" (now taking the form of women, now beasts, now serpents.") most often cited from the Jacques Paul Migne's Patrologia. But are these the actual words of Life of Anthony by Athanasius of Alexandria?