Subject 2: The Devil in Art History

Here are some famous examples of depictions of the Devil within art history:


Raphael – St. George Fighting the Dragon


Sassetta – St. Anthony the Hermit Tortured by the Devils


Matthias Grunewald – The Temptation of St. Anthony


Lucus Cranach The Elder – Adam and Eve


Guillaume Geefs – Le genie du mal

The running theme within these works is that Lucifer is generally depicted fairly classically as the Devil or the fallen angel Lucifer.


Subject 2: Symbolism – The Devil

Lucifer, Satan, Devil; he is known by many names. The Devil is one of the most important figures within Christianity. He represents a literal anti-Christ, an angel felled to hell. Within art he generally takes two forms, which describe perfectly the most important aspects of the Devil. He either appears as a monster, like a horned goat, in order to put fear into the hearts of man. He can be red and menacing, surrounded by flames and suffering, a warning of the fate in store when the words of the Bible aren’t followed. The other way Satan can be seen is as and attractive angel, his beauty used to seduce mortal man into sin. Symbolism is often used to depict him within art history, here is a list from:

The Dragon – the emblem of heathen evil and Satan, the spiritual enemy of mankind. Saint Michael and Saint George are often depicted battling and slaying the dragon symbolizing their triumph over evil.

Snake – symbolizes Satan; the presence of evil, fall of man

The pitchfork and trident  are both symbols of the devil

Snake in a fruit tree – signifies the mans fall from grace as well as  Satan’s meddling in the affairs of men.

A snake brazenly slithering across the middle of a thoroughfare or road– symbolizing the False Prophet leading the way to hell.

A devious serpent peeking out of a basket, urn or pot – a spiritual reminder of Satan’s presence in unusual places.

The Color Red – a symbol of greediness and lust. Denotes sin; sins of mankind, Satan, original sin; temptation, Judas, Harrowing of Hell, The Fiery Furnace, Slaughter of the Innocents, the Apocalypse .

Goat – symbol of the Devil.  Satan is often depicted as a horned and hoofed goat-like creature.

Wasp – symbol of the Devil or his henchmen.  Satan is often depicted as a devilish winged creature. The wasp or yellow jacket is symbolic of Satan’s relentless hunt for easily corrupted souls and backsliders.

A fluttering blue of white curtain- symbolizes a heavenly world in which the splendor of the holy and divine is only beginning to be shown.

An unsheathed knife near a money purse or pile of coins- denotes a rebellious and materialistic viewpoint.

A burned out candle – symbolizes a lack of devoutness and piety.

A white or blue pitcher and basin –  is a symbol of Purity, signifying clean thoughts and an uncorrupted essence.  The pitcher and basin are also symbolic of forgiveness of sins, cleansing, sanctification, unity with God, eternal life, glory, theosis.

A dirty window- suggests physical malady (usually a venereal disease or leprosy); a polluted body.

A spilled or overturned inkwell- symbolizes broken  promises, broken political treatise, missed chancesIf the spilled inkwell is on the desk of a Saint then this symbolizes martyrdom;  divine sufferers who spilled their blood in Gods name.

Lute – a musical instrument symbolic of romantic love.