Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo
Saint Anthony Abbot and St. Paul the Hermit

Circa 1510
Oil on canvas, 165 x 137 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Savoldo pictures the visit of St. Anthony Abbot to St. Paul the Hermit, who had been in the desert even longer than Anthony. Anthony is on the right, asking Paul to teach him his wisdom. He looks Paul in the face, but Paul looks only to Heaven.

The palm-like branch growing from the rock between them probably has a symbolic significance – perhaps to associate the self-sacrifice of their ascetic lives with that of the martyrs, or as a metaphor for spiritual growth in the rocky terrain of the Egyptian desert.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons