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Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (Jésus tenté dans le désert)

James Tissot

European Art

Although Matthew, Mark, and Luke all describe Christ’s temptations by Satan, Tissot cites only the version given by Luke. For reasons that remain unclear, he changes the order of the tests given by Luke.

In Tissot’s first image, Satan abducts Jesus and soars to a precipitous height—emphasized by the low, bright horizon line in the distance. The shadowy darkness of the claw-toed devil contrasts with Jesus’ pristine white cloak. From their great height, Satan tempts Jesus with the many kingdoms he could command if he rejected God and worshipped the devil instead.

In Tissot’s second image, after Jesus has fasted for forty days in the desert to prepare for his ministry, Satan urges him to end his hunger by turning stones into bread. Jesus refuses, despite his suffering. In Luke’s telling, Jesus invokes a verse from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, proclaiming: “It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886–1894
    DIMENSIONS Image: 8 7/8 x 13 5/16 in. (22.5 x 33.8 cm) Sheet: 8 7/8 x 13 5/16 in. (22.5 x 33.8 cm) Frame: 16 7/8 x 22 7/8 x 1 1/2 in. (42.9 x 58.1 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed bottom left: "J.J. Tissot"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.51
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    PROVENANCE 1900, purchased from the artist by the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION James Tissot (Nantes, France, 1836–1902, Chenecey–Buillon, France). Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (Jésus tenté dans le désert), 1886–1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 8 7/8 x 13 5/16 in. (22.5 x 33.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.51 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.51_PS1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 00.159.51_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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