Collection Online
The temptation of Christ
oil on canvas
75.5 × 55.0 cm
inscribed in brown paint l.c.l.: Ary Scheffer / 1854
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1886
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
19th Century European Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Collection of John Farnworth (d. c. 1869), Woolton, near Liverpool, by c. 1869; Estate of John Farnworth, until 1874; included in Farnworth sale, Christie's, London, 19 May 1874, no. 69; from where purchased by Agnew's (dealer), London, 1874, stock no. 8742[1]; sold to E. M. Buxton, 6 June 1874; collection of E. M. Buxton, 1874–79; re-purchased by Agnew's, London, 7 June 1879, stock no 1176[2]; sold to J. D. Perrins, 7 June 1879; his collection, until 1883; by whom sold to Agnew’s, London, 20 April 1883, stock no. 2734; sold to William Graham (1817–85), Glasgow, 4 May 1883[3]; his collection, until 1885; included in William Graham sale, Christie's, London, 2–10 April 1886 (sold 2 April), no. 83; from where purchased, by Alfred Taddy Thompson, for the NGV, 1886.

[1] See Agnew’s Picture Stockbook 1874–79, NGA27/1/1/5, pp. 20-21, Thomas Agnew & Sons archive, National Gallery Research Centre, London, accessed

[2] See n1 above, p. 294-95

[3] See Agnew’s Picture Stockbook 1879–85, NGA27/1/1/6, pp. 218-19, Thomas Agnew & Sons archive, National Gallery Research Centre, London, accessed Annotation reads 1882, however this appears to be a mistake.

Towards the end of his career, Ary Scheffer achieved great success with paintings based on Christian themes. Many of these works were life-size, and he also made a number of smaller painted copies, of which The temptation of Christ is one such example. Strangely, Scheffer stopped work on the life-size The temptation of Christ, in order to make a number of the reduced versions.

Scheffer is a difficult artist to categorise, as his style varied greatly during his career. Soon after moving from his native Holland to Paris, around 1811, he worked in a neo-classical manner, then abandoned that style when briefly influenced by the Romantic Movement. His later works are more Symbolist in nature. At this time, he was inspired by the clarity of composition, and the direct approach to narrative of Italian painting before 1500. Consequently, the characters he paints impart emotion purely through easily recognisable expressions or gestures. Scheffer’s work has been criticised as being overly sentimental, but his emotionally charged images struck a chord with the public, and he was one of the most popular artists of his day.


Ary Scheffer, The Temptation of Christ, (1854) acquired 1886, had been reframed at some time in a wooden profile frame of Whistlerian form, painted white and distressed to expose areas of the timber. The proposal to reframe the painting came in advance of the preparation of paintings for the rehang of the second floor galleries in the manner of a dense Salon hang.
After exploring several sources of frames on paintings by Scheffer, the frame chosen for this project was a finely fluted scotia frame found on Ary Scheffer’s Charles Dickens, 1855, in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Drawings, photographs and impressions of parts of the detail were sent to the NGV by the NPG, London. These details were used for the construction and gilding of the frame by an external contractor. The surface finishing was carried out at the NGV.
The painting was fitted in the frame in August 2008.

Reproduction - commissioned by the NGV