Bosch trip

The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1504 — Hieronymus Bosch

Before I came, my mind had something to expect. I’ve heard already about Bosch and his unique style of drawing, which consists mystical creatures, artifacts and mad stories full of human’s carnality, cruelty and fatuousness. I was wondering how such infernal images could avoid Catholic censorship and be sell off. Luckily Hieronymus was born a century before Reformation, which waked dominant Catholic Church and its censorship apparatus in the way, that this problem over hanged only his followers during bloody 16th century. In any way, no one burned these odd, but magnificent masterpieces, which makes hundreds of questions and thousands of exclamations.

When I entered the hall, the first thing, which I noticed was a huge crowd that surrounded something very broad and fragmentary. I approached closer and saw the people faces immersed into different parts of the legendary triptych. These people didn’t look at the picture as at all-in-one composition, but their heads were jumping from one figure to another. An each centimeter of the oil represented the whole story with it’s symbol and meaning. I could cover the entire triptych by one embracing glance, but it was pointless. «The Garden of Earthly Delights» is not a one picture, but myriad of stories, fantasies, wonders and horrors. It is the whole another world, which dictates it’s own rules and verities.

The picture arrived from Museo del Prado, national Spanish museum in Madrid, where the triptych was reposing for 70 years. Now, one of the main works of the Holland painter is at homeland. The huge art piece, which is standing at the center of the exhibition, has length almost 4 meters and presents 3 parts. The author was making it for 10 years, started in the 1500. The central part shows uncharacteristic for other works idyll. Bosch draws green fields, hundreds of naked and happy people, who are eating gigantic berries, indulging carnal pleasures and playing with animals, which have unrealistic sizes. Some experts call this part as “Childhood of mankind”, the “golden age”, when man and nature were living together with harmony and love. Others say totally opposite, that here Bosch represents pestilential consequences of sensual pleasures. For example, a glass sphere inside which couple of paramours fondles and a glass bell, where 3 sinners hide, represent the famous Dutch adage «Happiness and glass how soon they pass». In any way, there are lots of interpretations of what the legendary artist wanted to tell us and no one can surely state the meaning of many of his symbols.

The left and right parts are independent scenes, which don’t cross with plot of the central picture. The left side shows the last three days of the world creation. Here you can see bible animals such as giraffe, elephant and unicorn. At the center of composition, there is source of life in the form of high, thin and pink tower, that reminiscent gothic shrine. In medieval age, people often were associating Eden with faraway India, which symbols also were brought into the picture. Bosch added lots of precious stones and tropic animals, wafting east mythology and beliefs.

The right part of the huge triptych represents a very common for Bosch scene of hell. The Dutch painter liked drawing infernal themes and here he surpasses himself. If at the central part of the triptych, Bosch shows erotic dream, the right leaf represents horrible reality. Houses are not just burning, they explode, illuminate flashes of flame and dark background is making the water of the lake crimson as blood. Humanoid animals are not friends anymore; white bunny drags the bound man to torture, huge bird with hands swallows people, which eventually fall into the black hole. Again, Bosch exaggerates the size of objects. This time you can see household appliance of giant proportions, which became instruments of torture, among them are knife, lamp and lute. The most remarkable detail of this part is Bosch by himself. The artist added his face on the top of which, he placed a big white plate, where monsters and humans are walking and holding each other’s hands.

After the close examination of the images, I turned to the visitors. I couldn’t see anyone with indifferent faces; each one had an honest emotion, no matter what was it, a complacent smile or an uncomprehending revulsion. Such a works, which are made unhampered by religious or ideological boundaries, attracts especially. And it’s pleasant to know, that there always have been people, who despite the accepted tradition, were making their own art, which could be frightening and obscure, but necessarily honest. No matter who, Bosch, Marquis de Sade or William S. Burroughs, all these people showed their private version of the world. Thanks to this kind of artists, we can perceive art as not only aesthetic source of pleasure, but also as ethical reminder.

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