ALTAR OF THE VIRGIN MARY
The painting by Giuseppe Marchesi, called The Sansone, portrays St. Mary with the Child and the saints Anthony the Abbot, on the left, and Anthony from Padua, on the right.
St. Anthony the Abbot, dressed as a hermit, looks at the observer and opens his arms wide to the Virgin Mary and the Child, as to draw our attention to the wonder that is happening in front of him. St. Anthony from Padua is standing in a Franciscan tunic next to a white lily while he welcomes the Child in his hands.
The characters of the painting are set in a supernatural context among a whiling multitude of angels who are accompanying the Virgin Mary to her glory.
The iconography of the Virgin in glory sums up the dogma of the human/divine double nature acquired after death and the Assumption in heaven. It is a devotional and symbolic iconography that was very common especially during the Baroque and Counter-Reformation age, in response to the strict theological positions taken from the Catholic Church after the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
SOME MORE INFORMATION
Saint Anthony Abbot
Anthony was born in Egypt in 251. Between 286 and 306 he led a lonely life in the abandoned fortress of Pispir, where he won over the devil’s temptations. Despite his ascetic way of living, he had many disciples and got involved in important Church issues in support of the Christians persecuted by Massimino Daia and in rebuttal of the Arianism doctrine.
The historical information about this Saint are found in his biography written by Saint Anastasio, bishop of Alexandria of Egypt and his disciple during the second half of the IV century.
Saint Anthony from Padua
He was born in Lisbon in 1195 from a noble family. He joined the Augustinian Canons, but after the martyrdom of five Franciscan missionaries in Morocco, he decided to switch to the Franciscan order.
He started his preaching in Africa, then taught in Montpellier and Toulouse. In Italy he started preaching in Romagna then moved up to Northern Italy. He used his word to fight the Cathar heresy in Italy and the Albigensian heresy in France. He was a Marian and a convinced supporter of the Virgin’s Assumption. He allegedly experienced the appearance of the Virgin and Baby Jesus, to whom the Saint was particularly devoted. The first witness of this appearance was the count of Camposampiero, named Tiso, who hosted the Saint in his house for a while. One day he was returning home from a hunting session when he surprised Anthony having a sacred conversation with an apparently flesh-and-blood boy. When Anthony realized that he was being watched, the Child disappeared and he was so profoundly shaken that he made the count promise not to tell anybody what he had seen. Another miracle he experienced is the famous miracle of the preaching to the fish, which took place in Rimini. Anthony started preaching on the sea shore when a great number of fish rushed to him and put their head out of the water to listen.