At the age of sixty, the Sienese painter Rutilio Manetti had not yet achieved the fame he deserved. Many were his works of art, and for all of them he had been well paid, but none had that particular originality and power that would have made them acceptable not only to the tastes of his contemporaries, but also to that of future posterity. Was it the fault of the subject matter requested by the patrons? Perhaps! However in the year 1630 he was asked to do a painting for the church of Sant’Agostino in Siena that had as its subject Saint Anthony the Abbot, the holy founder of the first monastery who was also famous for struggling against the temptations of the devil.
It was nothing too original as a subject: many painters, such as Bosch, Veronese, and Salvatore Rosa, had done canvases of this kind and some were even very well known. The tempting devil had been depicted through the ages in various horrifying ways, and many had been very insistent in regard to sexual temptations which inspired various painters to paint disturbing female creatures (and provided them with a pretext).
Manetti, however, conscious of not being able to compete with the many giants of painting, had a flash of genius of depicting the devil with a pair of glasses upon his nose: a spectacled demon who tempted the saint, intent on reading the Holy Scriptures, with the wisdom of his contemporaries, a knowledge distorted and deformed by glasses.
What worse temptation could there be for a man of God, yesterday as today, but by the great liar himself!