The saint is represented by an old, bearded man, dressed in a hooded monk’s habit over the tunic of his religious order. He is stood upright, holding an open book, La Règle des Antonnites, in his right hand. In the other hand, he is holding a staff in the form of the Greek letter tau with a rosary hanging down over it. At his feet lies a pig wearing a small bell around its neck.
He rests on his right leg, whilst the left advances forward as if he were about to start walking. His belted tunic, forming several rectilinear pleats, is covered by a habit which is open only at the waist, therefore revealing these pleats. He is also wearing a hooded scapular over his shoulders.
His thick hair escapes from under a distinctive hat, forming a collection of finely sculpted ringlets. This fine detail is also applied to the four long ringlets of his superb beard, which sit just below the shorter ones of his moustache.
His face is a picture of harmony, with lowered eyes and his small mouth lost amongst the abundance of hair.
At his feet on a pedestal of flames, hinting to the fire of Saint Anthony no doubt, a pig trying to scratch its ear.
Born in 251 in Upper Egypt, he withdrew into solitude at a very young age. He would have been plagued in the desert with extremely diabolical temptations.
He payed a visit to Saint Paul the hermit towards the end of his life. He was the dean of the Thébaïde anchorites, who was miraculously fed by a crow. On the day that Saint Anthony visited, the crow brought two portions of bread in its beak instead of one.
Some time after, having learnt of the death of his venerable brother, Saint Anthony went to bury him with the help of two lions.
The King of Catalonia pleaded to come and exorcise his posessed wife and children. He left Thébaïde for Barcelona. He appeared at the house of the provost André, bringing him a sow in his mouth, a monstrous piglet born without eyes. André wanted to kill it but Anthony stopped him, telling him that the poor beast wanted to ask for healing, as the King had done for his offspring.
He made a sign of the cross on the piglet and it suddenly acquired its sight and the members which it did not have at birth. After which, André, guided by Saint Anthony, exorcised the Queen of Catalonia in the same way whilst she knelt at his feet.
Théophile discovered the body of Saint Anthony wrapped in a palm fibre tunic which he had been given by Saint Paul the Hermit.
In the Red Sea Desert there are two Coptic, IV century, monasteries which stand next to each other, one dedicated to Saint Anthony, the other to Saint Paul the Hermit. They are the oldest monasteries in the Christian world.
The body of the famous hermit was transported to Constantinople and would have been transferred into the abbaye, Saint Antoine-en-Viennois, Dauphine.
The Antonnite Order was a charitable order which specialized in treating contagious diseases. The fire of Saint Anthony, was identified by doctors as a gangrenous ergotism, caused by a diet of rye bread contaminated with the parasite ergot. The effect of this is the drying out of hands and feet which then need amputation, the plague and then later syphilis. All the skin diseases came from Saint Anthony.
Saint Anthony’s pilgrimage to Dauphine rivaled that of Saint Jacques to Compostela. Thanks to the various commanderies created by the mother house, Saint Anthony’s cult spread throughout Christianity.
In order to maintain commanderies and their hospitals, the Antonnites resorted to pig farming. They enjoyed having the benefit of letting their pigs roam freely through the streets of the villages, with little bells round their necks that had a recognizable chime so that they were able to find them. This privilege was very envied by other monastic Orders.
Saint Anthony was the patron saint of several crafts such as basket makers and gravediggers.
However it is to the pig that he owes the majority of his patronages; pig-keepers, pig sellers, butchers, porc butchers, brush makers who use pig bristle and bell-ringers because of the pig bells.
This sculpture is is very good condition.