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.”
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James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Transported by a Spirit onto a High Mountain (Jésus transporté par l'esprit sur une haute montagne), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 10 7/16 x 7 1/4 in. (26.5 x 18.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.50
Purchased by public subscription
Image: 10 7/16 x 7 1/4 in. (26.5 x 18.4 cm); Sheet: 10 7/16 x 7 1/4 in. (26.5 x 18.4 cm); Frame: 20 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (50.8 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm)