flight of the earthly delights: path to the bonfire

Life in the central panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s greatest painting, often called The Garden of Earthly Delights, is unencumbered by conscience, clothing, or cognizance of any higher goal than pleasure. There has been no more enigmatic painter than Bosch, with his air-borne fishes, ubiquitous birds, and such curiously ingenuous hedonists as the couple in the central panel.

Carol Bartz. ...Bartz used frofanity to describe her firing by Yahoo's board. She said Mr. Bostock read from a lawyers prepared statement when he spoke to her by phone to dismiss her..... According to Bosch, humanity lives in a home for the insane, which it has built and equipped for itself. It is ruining its intellect and its power of self-direction. In the end it will hand itself over to the powers of darkness and madness. Eternity will be a lunatic asylum. Image:http://xincluded.com/tag/site/

The painting, a triptych measuring seven feet by almost thirteen feet has fascinated generations of visitors to Madrid’s Museo de Prado, but what its message may be is a question that has long been debated by authorities. The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych of a rather uncommon type. In this painting, although the intellectual emphasis remains on the center panel, the eye is meant to move from left to right, both in space and in time: from creation and Paradise long ago, through the present scene of ephemeral folly, to the infinite future of hell. Van Eyck shows eternity touching time in one glorious moment. Bosch shows the history of mankind as a long fool’s errand leading inexorably to disaster.

Garden of Earthly Delights. Central Panel. Gombrich:Together with this language of movement Bosch uses a language of physiognomics. The misshapen profiles of the enemies of Christ, which so tantalisingly remind us of Leonardo’s caricatures, bespeak their evil intention with unmistakable force. But this very skill in characterisation tends to make us forget that as far as facial expression is concerned, Bosch’s figures frequently wear impenetrable masks. Isolate the faces of his tortured victims or of his saints, of his (few) blessed in Paradise and of his sinners, and you will often find it hard to guess at the context. Not that Bosch stands alone in this difficulty of mastering facial expression. On the contrary; compared with the impassive features of a Memling, some of his figures, such as that of the thief on the Road to Calvary, are landmarks in the history of this conquest. And yet his ambiguities help to explain the diversity of interpretations of individual figures. Read More:http://gombricharchive.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/showrev10.pdf

Strictly speaking, the triptych is not blasphemous or heretical. But, it is heretical to declare that the Incarnation of God was in vain, that Jesus did not succeed in redeeming humanity, that there is no hope of heaven, no reward for virtue, no divine grace bestowed on even a small part of mankind, and that, whatever we al do or try to do, we are traveling the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire. It is a concept hard for all but the bitterest pessimist to accept. Almost a painting and message to sit your wrists to.

Jade Foret and Arnaud Lagadiere. Bosch's attempt to bewilder us, to show us a vision that is as vivid as real life but as irrational as a long lasting nightmare? image:http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/minute-vip/arnaud-lagardere-et-jade-foret-couple-de-l-ete_1013611.html

Also, and with some difficulty, it is hard to connect with Bosch’s view of sin as mere folly. Generally, when we think of crimes, it is those which do not destroy at once, but which corrupt and corrode incrementally. But why go on? We are surrounded, haunted and harassed by individual to individual inhumanity; yet are always looking for a better place, a safe haven, a cleaner more sane place to live, but attacked and plagued by the devils of the world, human in face and animal in soul. But this blatant aspect of wickedness is something Bosch hardly sees.

---Right Panel. Gombrich:We are still in the state of such bemused wonderment when we read the various interpretations of Bosch’s companion piece to the Haywain, the so-called Garden of Delight. But maybe one day a lucky find will put us in possession of its key, and all the strange configurations will fall into place. Provided, of course, that there is such a key. For, after all, it remains possible that Bosch was not quite sane and that there is no rational explanation for all his symbols. Several psychiatrists have hinted at insanity, for instance, Dr Hemphill in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (February 1965) and Professor Carstairs in the Colour Supplement of the London Observer (June 12, 1966); but perhaps neither of the authorities is enough of a historian to sift the evidence. For this much is sure: if Bosch’s weird imaginings are the result of inner pressures, these were soon, matched by external pressures asking him to repeat and develop them. Read More:http://gombricharchive.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/showrev10.pdf

Bosch’s admirer and successor Pieter Bruegel knew it well, Bruegel lived when the Spaniards were oppressing the Netherlands with fire and sword and so painted The Massacre of the Innocents and other scenes of strife and slaughter. Bosch however, seems to consider sin should be regarded, even if mortal, as a form of foolishness, without nary a glance at its darker aspects. Its a bit on the variation of the banality of evil line, in which the chasm is crossed through the application conscious or not, of thoughtlessness; a willing complicity inconstructing the conditions of one’s own demise where each contributes an effort without the other knowing. He will depict a few men fighting or stealing but real cruelty and torture he places in hell; unless we are meant to look at the triptych from a different point of departure, the notion of redemption is subsumed by violence of the nihilistic variety.

Gombrich:Faced with a world that denies its metaphysical origin and does not yet seek any immanent meaning, Hieronymus Bosch invented another image: the world that had once been the home of the soul became alien to him. The gem changed into a deceptive veil, its divine lustre into vanity. Enveloping in mist that which had once been clear, rendering inconstant that which had once been lasting, and immaterial that which had once been palpable, the artist finally found the new face of the earth: a world that is merely an optical illusion. All this may make poetic reading, but is it true? Much as we owe to the pioneers of Geistesgeschichte, among whom Professor de Tolnay will always occupy an honoured place, it must be said that the last thirty years have made many of us impatient with its frequently circular argument and with its portentous tone. It seems only too easy to imaging what the master of the Haywain would have said to all this. Read More:http://gombricharchive.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/showrev10.pdf

What Bosch saw around him was a fat and flourishing world in which the body was hypertrophied and the spirit decaying. It was in this time period that German Sebastien Brant wrote the satire Ship of Fools, which showed all variety and manners of men

idiots bound for the land of stupidity, a concept Bosch illustrated in an early picture.

The Bosch message. Humanity is going to hell. We are all doomed. All damned. Also, we are not viscious, wicked, repulsive criminals. We are fools. Sin is folly. Finally, the mission of Jesus Christ was perfectly useless. Image:http://www.collegefashion.net/uncategorized/reebok-easytone-challenge-results-and-giveaway/

About the very time Bosch was at work on this fantastic vision, Erasmus produced an immortal ironic encomium of Folly, the deity who really, above all else rules mankind. The greatest paintings of Hieronymus Bosch are inspired by that spirit of bitter laughter and contemptuous despair.

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