07 January, 2007

Conduit of Love

The viewer is engaged by Bosch’s work. In the Larry Silver essay, “Hieronymus Bosch, Tempter and Moralist,” found in Per Contra,
we read about the compositional function of the gaze in Bosch’s well-known triptych that includes Paradise, The Garden of Earthly Delights and Hell.

“Another unifying element in the triptych is its insistence on gazes out of the picture in each panel. In Paradise the gaze comes from Christ himself, who confronts the viewer, even while blessing the First Parents. Balancing this pose at the center of the Hell wing, the oversized hybrid “tree-man” also turns outward, though with his body captive, his wistful gaze must twist and goes askance towards his own hollow, egg-shaped rear end (a desiccated remnant of the fecundity and indulgence of the center panel), where nude figures inhabit an infernal tavern. Atop his head upon a flat round tabletop a striking oversized round pink bagpipe echoes the pink round fruits of the central panel (and appears all the more striking as a color accent within the dark and grey Hell wing), as it offers the musical accompaniment to a hellish round-dance of naked humans, led by oversized demons (one of whom is dressed in a parody of fifteenth-century female courtly fashion). We recall again the significance of eye contact as the conduit of love; therefore, the solicitations of viewer attention and thus of engaged affection begin with Christ himself in the Paradise wing, only to end unfulfilled in the averted gaze of the damned tree-figure, rooted in Hell.”