(Once again, I haven’t a clue as to why this name popped up in my head.)
Hilarion (291–371) was an anchorite who spent most of his life in the desert according to the example of Anthony the Great.
The chief source of information regarding Hilarion is the biography written by St. Jerome. The life of Hilarion was written by Jerome in 390 at Bethlehem. Its object was to further the ascetic life to which he was devoted. It contains, amidst much that is legendary, some statements which attach it to genuine history, and is in any case a record of the state of the human mind in the 4th century.
A (long) life of denial, withdrawal from the world, fasting, visions of temptation (no doubt facilitated by his extreme fasts), wandering, and miracles.
And there are pictures — by French artists, painted in the mid-19th century.
Hilarion’s name is derived from the Greek ‘ιλαρος (hilaros) ‘cheerful’ (which, through Latin, gave English the adjective hilarious), but his life was singularly lacking in cheer.
More from Wikipedia:
It seems that he was converted to Christianity in Alexandria. After that, he shunned the pleasures of his day — theatre, circus and arena — and spent his time attending church. According to St. Jerome, he was a thin and delicate youth of fragile health.
… Hilarion went to the area southwest of Majoma, the port of Gaza, that was limited by the sea at one side and marshland on the other. … He led a nomadic life, and he fasted rigorously, not partaking of his frugal meal until after sunset.
… Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair. Beset by carnal thoughts, he fasted even more. He was “so wasted that his bones scarcely held together” (Jerome)
… After he had lived in the wilderness for 22 years, he became quite famous in Syria Palaestina [roughly, Roman Palestine]. Visitors started to come, begging for his help. The parade of petitioners and would-be disciples drove Hilarion to retire to more remote locations. But they followed him everywhere. First he visited Anthony’s retreat in Egypt. Then he withdrew to Sicily, later to Dalmatia, and finally to Cyprus. He died there in 371.
On the paintings, from “The Fruit of Another” by Dan Piepenbring, in the Paris Review of 10/21/14:
Hilarion’s temptations inspired two very striking — and very different — French nineteenth-century paintings, both of which testify to his suffering more acutely than Jerome’s storytelling. The first, by Dominique-Louis-Féréol Papety, sees an almost catatonic Hilarion visited by a topless seductress with an elegant array of fruits, wine, and hors d’oeuvres, a surreal counterpoint to the forbidding landscape. What a brilliant thought on Papety’s part to have Hilarion’s arms outstretched — in protest as much as in longing, it seems — his face sick with fear and confusion.
Dominique-Louis-Féréa Papety, The Temptation of Saint Hilarion, 1843–44
The second is by Octave Tassaert, and it’s more conventionally harrowing: Hilarion stoops with a jury-rigged cross in his hand, bearing down in determined, moonlit prayer. In the air behind him are dozens of buxom temptresses in various stages of materiality, fumbling over one another to make an erotic impression; one of them offers a truly formidable chalice of red.
Octave Tassaert, The Temptation of Saint Hilarion, 1857
(The Tassaert is dark and hard to make out; this image was been brightened up some.)
You have probably never heard of either of these artists. Some information:
Dominique-Louis-Féréol Papety (12 August 1815 – 19 September 1849) was a French painter…. Winning the 1836 Prix de Rome, from then until 1841 he stayed at the Villa Medici in Rome, igniting his lifelong interest in Greek and Roman art. He visited Greece in 1846 and 1847, and a large number of his later paintings show similarities with the French Neo-Grec style made popular by Jean-Léon Gérôme and others. His The Dream of Happiness (Compiègne, Musée Antoine Vivenel), drawing inspiration from Charles Fourier’s writings, was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1843. (Wikipedia link)
Octave Tassaert (Paris, 26 July 1800 – Paris, 24 April 1874) was a French painter of portraits and genre, religious, historical and allegorical paintings, as well as a lithographer and engraver … [His] family was of Flemish origin. He was the grandson of the sculptor Jean-Pierre-Antoine Tassaert. … Winning popular but not critical success, his works showing poor people’s lives were felt melodramatic by critics but acclaimed by the public. His submission to the 1855 World Exhibition was well received by the critics, but Octave ceased to exhibit after the 1857 Salon, withdrawing more and more from the formal art world. [He committed suicide in 1874.] (Wikipedia link)