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“ST. ANTHONY THE ABBOT” BY THE SPANISH PAINTER DIEGO VELÁZQUEZ PRESENTED BY THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR IN 1901 TO THE MONASTERY OF SAINT ANTONY IN EGYPT

September 27, 2017

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Otto F.A. Meinardus (1925–2005), the renowned Coptologist, tells us in his book Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Deserts that the French ambassador to Egypt, Georges Cogordan, and other French diplomata, Auguste Boppe, Lovier Taigny and Leon Ouerry, visited the Monaastery of Saint Antony at the Red Sea, in Egypt, in November 1901. Cogordan presented the monastery with a large case containing an exact reproduction of the painting of St. Antony by Velazquez which Boppe and Tigny had brought from France.

Meinardus tells us that the picture was placed in the Church of St. Antony, “where it still hangs.” I am not sure that this picture is still held there; and when I visit the monastery I will certainly look out for it.[1]

The reproduction, in my opinion, was of the oil on canvas painting, “St. Anthony the Abbot”, in the Baroque style, by the great Spanish painter Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, or simply Diego Velazquez, (1599 – 1660).[2] It is believed that Velazquez painted it in c.1635 – 1638. I share it with my readers above. It shows St. Antony as an elderly man in a simple tunic, lifting up his eyes to heavens as he prays or contemplates. It is not how I imagine the great St. Antony, but it is certainly a lovely piece of art, executed with a religious sense.

I urge my readers to look out for this painting when they visit the ancient, spiritual Monastery of Saint Antony.

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[1] Otto F.A. Meinardus, Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Deserts (Cairo, American University Press, 2002); p. 23.

[2] Velazquez has another much more famous painting titled, “The Meeting of St Anthony and St Paul”.

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