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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hiëronymus Bosch Collectibles

Hailed by Carl Jung as, "The master of the monstrous . . . the discoverer of the unconscious," Hiëronymus Bosch, a late Gothic painter, was born Jheronymus Anthoniszoon van Aken on 1450 during the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, in 's-Hertogenbosch ("The Duke's Forest"), in the Duchy of Brabant. He was probably given the name Jheronymus due to his family's fondness for the patron saint, Saint Hieronymus (an older version of Saint Jerome). Later, he took on the shorten form of his birth town's name, Bosch, to distinguish himself from the rest of his family. He joined the ultra-conservative Illustre Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap (Brotherhood of Our Lady)—which his entire family was part of—in 1486 and maintained close ties with the religious fraternity until his death in 1516.

Bosch places visionary images in a hostile world full of mysticism, with the conviction that the human being, due to its own stupidity and sinfulness, has become prey to the devil. He holds a mirror to the world with his cerebral irony and magical symbolism, sparing no one. The hypocrisy of the clergy, the extravagance of the nobility, and the immorality of the people, are equally mocked in his paintings. Hiëronymus Bosch’s style arises from the tradition of the book illuminations (manuscript illustrations from the Middle Ages). The caricatural representation of evil tones down its terrifying implications, but also serves as a defiant warning with a theological basis.

Trivia: George Lucas cited Hiëronymus Bosch as an influence in the creation of several of the extra-terrestrial creatures in Star Wars.

A company actually manufactures 3D figurines of Hiëronymus Bosch's creatures :-D

Choir's Devil.

Inferno Ed will especially enjoy this. Check out the description:

The Virgin Mary makes a heavenly appearance to St. John the Evangelist in St. John the Evangelist on Patmos, a painting by Hiëronymus Bosch in his later years. It is calmer than the Garden of Earthly Delights but still contains a noteworthy character, The Choir's Devil, at lower right. This theatrical black freak could be Rev. Jesse Jackson a Tytinillus. This spy kept an eye on the clergymen who were members of the choir. If the gentlemen didn't keep their minds on the lesson or if they let their thoughts wander off into undesired directions, then, on Judgment Day, they were confronted with the accurate notes of this spectacled bookkeeper. What his plans were with the hook remains open to question. This instrument was normally used by the devil to drag sinful souls into hell.

I guess I'm in peril, über maestro :-P

Fish With Tower.

The Temptation of Saint Anthony is a triptych. When closed, the outer wings feature: on the left, the arrest of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane; on the right, the Son of Man carrying the Cross. Opened, the left wing portrays the flight and failure of Saint Anthony; the right shows the saint in meditation. The center panel depicts the trials of temptation. Saint Anthony won a lot of praise in Hiëronymus Bosch's heyday. He resisted diabolical temptations, in sharp contrast with the ordinary mortals, as this triptych portrays in splendid colors. On the left panel one can find this peculiar fish with architectural features that is prepared to eat its fellow sort. It is a diabolical creature with its red, armored second skin on which the turret is displayed. He is situated right in front of the brothel, one of the temptations that Antonius resisted gloriously.

Saint Anthony on Flying Frog with Rats.

On the top of the left panel, the Saint is carried away after he has been battered by the devil. In the sacred story he is once again assaulted and tossed high into the air by the devils. Poor Anthony here lies praying on a flying frog, whilst he is being besieged by devils in wolves clothing. The frog appears on the painting as an androgynous symbol several times.

Bird With Letter.

From The Temptation of Saint Anthony. Located on the right corner of the left panel, the inscription on this note in the beak of this birdlike monster on skates could throw a light on the contemplated symbolism. Unfortunately, this text, which is difficult to read, is open to various interpretations, but none of them are proven to be accurate. The postman-like freak is perhaps delivering a letter to the conspiring figures in the hole under the bridge. The funnel on this curious bird¹s head gives him a preposterous appearance. This headgear is referred to elsewhere as wisdom or absent-mindedness, but that symbolism seems unsuitable here.

Fish With Mast.

From the center panel, this armored fish moves in the water like a boat in front of the main scene: the celebration of Black Mass. In the Temptation of Saint Anthony, fish appear in all shapes and sizes. This one, located at the bottom middle, still swims, but his fellow sort can be found on dry land or even in the air. Up there they serve as cold-blooded means of conveyance for what could be witches.

Monster Playing the Harp.

Also located in the middle panel, on the left of the Fish With Mast, this creature with its monstrous skull is riding on a peculiarly plucked goose-like creature. He is playing his harp, here as a symbol for one of the many temptations to which mankind is exposed and which Saint Anthony so bravely resisted. Even in those days, making music is thought as a lure to lecherous behavior.


Once again, from the center panel, above the Monster Playing the Harp, a curious procession of demonic creatures files past. Here, Hiëronymus Bosch exposes the administration of justice of his time. The severed leg of an executed person dangles from the wheel. A perforated swine refers to the strange custom of also judging sinful animals. This typically medieval fantasy creature can be found in the foreground.

Fat Belly Monster with Dagger.

On the right panel, the devoted saint turns his head from the naked devil queen and her entourage. His gaze points at a set table, as a symbol for greed. The dagger in the creature's fat belly on the right corner shows the consequences of intemperance. His eyes look out at you in acknowledgment.

Bird Monster with Castle Body.

Not to be confused with the triptych, this creature hails from another similarly-named painting. Despite the threats surrounding Saint Anthony, the hermit sits there contemplating imperturbably as this perculiar little Bird Monster with Castle Body attacks the pig at St. Anthony's side.

Devil On Night Chair.

In The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hiëronymus Bosch shows us how we mortal souls, arisen from earthly paradise, are on our way to the atrocious ordeals of Hell via our unchaste lives on earth. The dark painting on the closed panels shows the Creation, surrounded by water, in accordance with medieval tradition. It is presumed that somehow Bosch had knowledge of the Visio Tungdali, a 12th century handwriting that describes a vision of a journey through hell. This was possibly the basis for this devil, crowned with a cauldron, symbolizing the diabolical inferno fire. He is sat on a night chair, which offers him the possibility of excreting the gorged souls. His curious footwear in the shape of pitchers symbolizes dipsomania. Close up of the right wing of the painting.

Ears With Knife.

From The Garden of Earthly Delights. Two enormous ears, held together by an arrow and a knife jammed in between. Is there an allegorical mediaeval symbolism behind this, or are the horrible tortures one might expect in hell pictured here once more? Is the monogram on the knife an M of the B of Bosch? Maybe we will never know what Bosch — had between his ears — when he was painting this picture. Detail of the right wing.

Paradise Fountain.

From The Garden of Earthly Delights. This exotic fountain is situated amidst a blissful paradisiacal scene. Its design is alienating, almost extraterrestrial. In the hole, placed exactly in the middle of the left panel, we can see an owl as a contemplative central figure. Placed in the forefront, Christ introduces Adam to his future wife. Bosch must have subsequently wondered whether, looking at the right panel, this was such a smart idea. Detail of the left wing.

Woman and Seducer.

From The Garden of Earthly Delights. The forces of evil call out in seduction towards the young mermaid. Will the two embrace each other and become lovers or will the forces of good and evil keep their distance? This pairing of Mermaid and Knight appears in the central panel, just left of the Paradise Fountain in the water.

Helmeted Bird Monster.

From The Garden of Earthly Delights. This helmeted bird monster is carrying a pencil box and an ink pot in its beak, in which the nun, decaying into a pig, is dipping her pen. A severed foot is swinging from the bird's helmet referring to the horrible corporal punishments which could be expected in hell. The pig, indeed an indictment against the decay of clergy life, is tempting the man who is sitting beside him and it appears that he is drawing up a contract. Is the man possibly selling his soul?

Egg Monster.

In The Last Judgement (left panel, center, and right panel), Hiëronymus Bosch warns us against the consequences of a life of sin. The downfall of the rebellious angels on the left panel heralds the beginning of the end. Further, one sees the chosen few in heaven, with below them the vast remainder who will have to undergo the most horrendous tortures on Judgment Day. Saint Jacob of Compostella and the 'Holy Bavo' adorn the closed panels. Amidst the many unlucky ones who are speared, ripped open, strangled or even fried, the monster in the egg that has been shot by an arrow, steps jovially into the middle panel. He appears to be detached from his entourage. Meanwhile, his fellow monsters are painstakingly going about their core-business: carrying out the merciless delivery of the final punishment, for us sinners, in a most inventive manner.


From The Last Judgement. On the foreground of the shocking central panel stands a creature characteristic of Bosch's work, consisting of only one head on two feet. His anatomical imperfections are covered by a headscarf. The painter has embroidered upon a classical Greek form in his own distinctive way. In ancient times, omitting body parts was also considered frightening. This character, appearing at the bottom of the lower left corner, seems to be taking a carefree stroll through the bloody scene of the Last Judgment.

Freak with Beard.

The Freak with Beard Statue, from Bosch's Last Judgement appears left of the middle panel of the triptych. It shows a "rillo" with beard, a freak with merely a head and legs. Bosch has extended his interpretation of a "rillo" by adding the tail of a reptile. He looks with a frightened expression at the mincer, where sinners are put through on Judgement Day.

Witch's Kitchen.

The Witch's' Kitchen, also from Bosch's Last Judgement, is taken from the on the left side of the central panel which illustrates a diabolic tavern. People are being cooked, smoked, put through mincing machines, squeezed, fried and roasted on the spit. In this witch's kitchen, sinners are subjected to the "Judicium Extremum" of the Supreme Judge. The punishment reflects the nature of the sins committed, in this case indulgence and gluttony.

Blue Flutist.

The Blue Flutist, from Bosch's Last Judgement, appears on the left hand side on the middle panel of the triptych. He is a cheerful blue creature which adds lustre with his music to the horrifying spectacle. He symbolises the lawlessness, ending in many not being admitted to heaven on Judgement Day.

The scenes of maiming and torture remind me of the creatures in Har Par Villa / Tiger Balm Garden, with its many levels of Hell. The visionary, Neil Gaiman, has an interesting take on the park. Anyone who has never read Sandman (Lord Julius deigned to furnish a quick intro here) or laughed at the quirky antics of Morpheus' deadly little kid sister (kinda like my lovable kid sister) hasn't experienced the magic of mature comics. You think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and The Matrix were mindblowing. HA! You ain't see nuthin' yet! Issue 19 of Sandman won the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, making it the first comic ever to be awarded a literary award. But I digress...


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