Is man a wayfarer? A wanderer between two worlds? His destiny that of an outsider, eve an outlaw to the laws of nature; man as wayfarer, restless and unable to settle and establish roots . He reaches a fork in the road and, traveling as a pilgrim from and to an eternal, he can choose to defy order as an alienated rebel, and “enlightened” outcast or may appropriate the guise of a fool and be the victim of delusion and fantasy. A world gone wrong filled with a relentless overriding pessimism whose only escape is the pursuit of the meaningless. Even small amounts of optimism are overshadowed, surrounded and and at risk of mortal assault by powers and forces beyond the grip of control or even consciousness. The world of Hieronymous Bosch was a complex narrative in a northern renaissance visual language that is far from apparent to our era. Yet it continues to beg a post modern response…
Gombrich: The anxieties depicted by Bosch are concerned with the eternal torment that awaits the sinner. Indulge yourself in eating, and your reward will not be an increase in cholesterol, but toads for breakfast in all eternity. Lose your temper and you will be chopped to bits by specialist devils for ever and ever and ever. For “beware, beware,” – as we read on Bosch’s Table Top in the Prado – “the Lord sees.” It is necessary to become aware of the gulf that separates us from Bosch’s intellectual universe, if we are not to misread the images in this book as surrealist fantasies. But though the general import of their message is clear enough, the details of Bosch’s pictorial language are still enigmatic. There is no better introduction to the problem with which his symbolism presents the modern historian than the beautiful page which Erwin Panofsky devoted to this question at the end of his book on Early Netherlandish Painting (1953). Having indicated briefly in what kind of popular and devotional literature he would look for the sources of Bosch’s imagery, he expresses the conviction “that the real secret of his magnificent nightmares and daydreams has still to be discovered.” Read More:http://gombricharchive.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/showrev10.pdfa
… The second sitting for the last supper. why didn’t Christianity kill them all off and be done with this stiff-necked people! once and for all? The response, or a portion of the answer is that there are naysayers, elements in the Christian world who don’t necessarily deny they are a vagabond people, but they do have a role to play. Bosch’s wanders and wayfarers are a reminder of the promise of the second coming of Christ. Bosch’s figure, seen on the outside panel of several triptychs has been interpreted and identified at various times as a tramp, thief, prodigal son, drunk, and the Wandering Jew. No one has conjectured or surmised he may even be Christ himself perhaps undercover on a scouting mission before the grand entrance. With Bosch, the visual language is obscure and better to be prepared for the unexpected. All of the forementioned identities could conceivably be plausible, as he might also represent “Everyman.” The figure assumes whatever is most relatable to the individual viewer as they identify with him in their own journey. The figure is always transitional physically and in spirit. He is neither an example of good, nor evil, just like Bosch’s viewers for the most part. He is an in-between, a bubble of “now time” that breaks the linear dimension.
One of the most enduring interpretations is the wayfarer as wandering jew. As Martin Buber said, this figure is an icon in Christian legend but has no basis as a Jewish figure. Yet, in terms of popular culture it has a niche. The Christian heart, the promise of return and redemption embodied in the figure of the Eternal Jew, destined to wander the world until Christ’s promise to him is redeemed. So, Bosch paints him with sympathy since he is an incarnation of the promise of redemption, of salvation at the end of days. This fits into certain Evangelical and fundamentalist visions where Jewry is a necessary actor, the canary in the coal mine in the face of the Apocalypse. Their final conversion in the last moment of history, the eleventh hour, the bottom of the ninth with two outs, was a condition for the salvation of mankind, the second advent of the Lord and the dawn of a new day, of the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t buy it, but it does have convenient traction for many and explains somewhat Jacob Rabkin’s theory of Israel. But what if Bosch was Jewish?
Certainly, legends of the Eternal Jew recite a seemingly endless number of variations on this tale, along with various “sightings” of the Wandering Jew. One of the best-known is the account of Paulus von Eitzen, bishop of Schleswig, who “saw” the figure praying in a Hamburg church in the winter of 1542. He is described as …a tall man, dressed in threadbare garments, with long hair, standing barefoot in the chancel; whenever the name of Jesus was pronounced he bowed his head, beat his breast and sighed profoundly. It was reported that he was a shoemaker. named Ahasuerus who had cursed Jesus on the way to the crucifixion. On further questioning he related the historical events that had This version contains several of the most common attributes of the Wandering Jew as the tale was elaborated over the centuries: the name Ahasuerus, the poverty-stricken appearance, the wild hair, and the occupation of a shoemaker.( Leider )
The problem with Bosch is that multiple interpretations can be made of the figure of the Wanderer. And certainly it has been appropriated and semitized, villainized in anti-semitic caricatures, but whether this was Bosch’s intention is an educated guess based on symbolic association that does not necessar
have a Jewish or ethnic context. It can even be argued that Bosch was a precursor to Dali’s Paranoid Critical Method that simulated the paranoid state and fused spiritual, psychological and the physical. Although analysis like Michael Leider’s is logical and coherent, Bosch might have been reaching for something higher and less targeted.
Leider: It seems hardly necessary to point out that anyone familiar with the overall silhouette of the Wandering Jew must be struck by the similarity between it and Bosch’s Wayfarer, striding along, driving a barking dog from his heels, his “long hair” coming through a rent in his hat, “in threadbare garments,” his shoemaker’s awl attached to the hat in his extended hand. In the tree behind him an owl perches, symbolic of, among other things, blindness, in this case the blindness of Jewry to the true faith. Featured more prominently in the foreground than mere composition might account for is an animal casually taken to be a cow, but which is more probably an ox, the ox being, among other things, also a symbol of Jewry (stubbornness).
It would seem Bosch was working more on the theme of pilgimage:
…There is a story by Nachman of Bratzlav about this fellow who embarked on a long journey. after arriving at his destination, what he found there was what he had brought with him from home. there are similar stories in different traditions. this raises the interesting question as to the inherent purpose and value of a pilgrimage. and yet… we still seek out pilgrimages. we seek out pilgrimages because inner and outer are not two separate realities. if wherever we go, we only find our own selves, then existential loneliness can become unbearable. that is the reason we know, or we intuit, that we can go ‘out’ on a pilgrimage and find an “other”, not just our own selves. if we say ‘thou’ to it, then we stand a chance..( Martin Buber Dialogical Ecology )
Philip Leider:Perhaps no single figure in all of Hieronymus Bosch’s work has elicited a more chaotic array of interpretations than the so-called Wayfarer (ca.1510) and the almost identical figure on the outer panels of the famous triptych, The Haywain, painted about ten years earlier.
The iconographical problems posed are the most basic. Who is he? What is he meant to represent? Is his position on the outside panels of the Haywain significant to the narrative of that work, and, if so, in what way? An explanation that seems to provide a more complete
answer than any so far advanced is that the figure is a representation of the Eternal (or Wandering) Jew. The legend of the Wandering Jew is quickly told. According to it, a certain Cartaphilus was present as Jesus passed, carrying his cross to Calvary: Cartaphilus passed by him, hit him and told him to go more quickly. Thereupon Jesus said to him, “I am going, and you shall wait until I return.” Cartaphilus became a
Christian, was baptised in the name of Jesus, and by returning to his then age of thirty every hundred years, kept living as a pious witness to the passion of Christ, hoping for his redemption at the end of the world. Read More:http://www.jordanmaxwell.com/articles/religion/saturn-jews-2.pdf
Leaving aside his conversion at the time of his life-altering experience, his very existence represents not denial but proof of the divinity of Jesus, and proof that the world depicted in The Haywain will not go on forever and ever and ever. No wonder, then, that Bosch could give him the
kindly, worldly-wise, almost sweet sadness with which he views the corrupt world through which he has wandered since the Crucifixion.
He is the only ray of hope in the painting. Read More:http://www.jordanmaxwell.com/articles/religion/saturn-jews-2.pdf
Jonathan Jones:The myth of paradise is, fundamentally, millenarian: it is concerned with the end of life as we know it. Paradise is a state we can imagine, but to inhabit it we must become other.
Since the Renaissance, the paradisiacal has been political. Thomas More’s Utopia translated the ancient tradition of paradise into the idea of secular, social perfection. Utopia was an inescapable element of European politics until nearly the end of the 20th century. The end of Soviet society destroyed the utopian imagination and robbed us of part of what it is to be modern: the ability to imagine a paradise not in the world to come but in this one. Ofili’s recent paintings argue, against the grain, for the revival of utopianism. But mostly, nowadays, it seems paradise is what makes people kill each other.
That’s why Bosch will obsess this millennium as he did the last. Bosch is our painter, our visionary, because he craves the ecstatic and the utopian, and paints, in the central panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights, a paradise on earth. His utopia is mad, lost, deprived of reason – a perfect world, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2003/aug/26/1