James Ensor: The Temptation of Saint Anthony touchscreen

Interactive unlocks the stories, symbols, and secrets of Ensor’s masterpiece


Touchscreens, Design, Development

For Bluecadet’s first collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, we could not have imagined a more fascinating subject than The Temptation of Saint Anthony by influential Belgian artist James Ensor.

Complementing the Art Institute’s landmark exhibition, Bluecadet developed a touchscreen for visitors to decipher the making and meaning of this provocative, enigmatic masterpiece.

Challenging the artistic conventions of the late 19th century, Ensor drew The Temptation of Saint Anthony on 51 separate sketchbook pages that, when mounted together, produced a richly detailed drawing nearly six feet high. Building with Cinder/C++, our team created an interactive experience to engage visitors with this monumental and potentially daunting work in an accessible, personal way. Stepping up to one of the 42-inch touchscreen displays, visitors can select from nearly two dozen “hotspots” on the drawing, or “pinch and zoom” to explore the work up close. We wrote a custom gesture for this “pinch and zoom” interaction, meticulously refining the coding on the hardware to ensure a smooth, elegant experience.

The hotspots help decode the drawing’s astounding array of religious, secular, and personal references. For instance, selecting Saint Anthony from the welcome screen or hotspot menu provides a close-up view of the drawing captioned by in-depth information about the ancient monk; images of related historical artifacts; and other important influences on Ensor’s artistic imagination. The Head of Christ hotspot illuminates the invisible backstory of the work; infrared technology reveals that Christ’s crown of thorns was replaced by a Belgian military helmet. Other hotspots offer insight into Ensor’s life, such as an unfortunate battle with a tapeworm that threads through the entire composition.


We worked closely with the Art Institute of Chicago, infusing their wealth of content into the interactive experience. We are proud to collaborate with this distinguished museum and to help share the story of Ensor’s wildly ambitious, imaginative work with a new generation.


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