Art Spotlight: Saint Anthony, Hand of Fire


Hand of fire. Photo by Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images

Here we see a 1753 illustration of Egyptian aesthetic Saint Anthony the Great. Also known as Antony of Thebes, he was the father of Christian monasticism and is the patron saint of herdsmen. But, as discussed in our podcast episode "The Psychedelic Nightmare of Ergotism," he's also synonymous with ergot poisoning or ergotism. Here he is depicted with his emblem, a pig, being appealed to by a victim of gangrenous ergotism or St Anthony's Fire.

Joe and I reference this work of art in the episode, so I thought I'd share it. The other works we mention are discussed in additional posts linked to on episode landing page. It also reminds me of this song from the band Jape, which is probably not about ergotism. But maybe?


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.