* Artist: Max Beckmann
* Medium: oil on canvas triptych
* Year: 1936–7

Versuchung was painted in Berlin prior to Beckmann’s exile. It forms the second of Beckmann’s nine triptych works. As one art commentator has described the work, ‘Full of foreboding about the bellicose Nazi politics, Beckmann retreated into a world of personal ideology. He explored the hidden forces deep in the human soul that cause the upheavals erupting at the surface of our everyday existence. His triptychs are certainly splendid storytelling, but they have the ambivalence of dreams.’

Centre panel: Diana of Ephesus/Chaldean mytholoy (‘Men had one body, but two heads — the one of a man, the other of a woman. They were, in their several organs, both male and female’)
Left panel: temptation of the hero
Right panel: the temptation of fame

‘The sensual, luscious quality of the pigments is quite extraordinary and makes it clear that this is not painted literature; it is overwhelmingly visual art. True, there are allusions to Gustave Flaubert’s The Temptation of St Anthony, among other books, but none which would provide the “key” to the meaning of this picture. … No literary knowledge is required for the understanding and, above all, for the enjoyment of this vast and mysterious triptych; it is open to multiple interpretations. As Beckmann himself has put it: “Certain last things can only be expressed through art, otherwise they need not be put into painting, poetry, or music.”’

Recommended reading

cover of Max Beckmann On My PaintingMax Beckmann On My Painting
author: Max Beckmann
asin: 1854374567
cover of Max Beckmann: Exile in AmsterdamMax Beckmann: Exile in Amsterdam
author: Felix Billeter,Christian Lenz,Marco Pesarese,Beatrice von Bormann,Christiane Zeiller,Max Beckmann
asin: 3775718389