Hieronymus Bosch, El Bosco, has been an enigmatic painter having elaborated his work using an unknown language that was not possible to decode. The endeavor to reveal the hide messages in his composition has been a big historical challenge (and not a little failure). Despite having passed five hundred years since that painting were painted, the completely satisfying exegetical results could still have been waited… With regard to the altarpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights, his more complex and interesting creation, the elucidating task is glimpsed specially complicated until achieve its complete and detailed explanation.
During the XX century some maximalist species little or nothing substantiated about the meaning of the paints of the Bosco has being lavishing; it is about very rooted erroneous thesis, contradictory between them, but, nevertheless, coexist and survive with diffusive strange complacency. Between them, stands the ones of the heretic Bosh and alchemist Bosh, never effectively refuted.
Nether the latest published contributions truly introduce new solid and rigorous propositions of global interpretation. Whether by mistake or lack of method, the iconological research has been a lot of time stagnated. The fact of limit the analysis to the treatment of specific iconographic elements- as it has generally been done-, it just has reported to the explanatory process of the general topic partial results, almost null, or many subjectivist conjectures commonly done from approaches lacking of the needed theoretical support. This is not strange as in the technical-descriptive level it was not achieved even to synthetize the basic lines of the narrative discourse: nether previously to isolate and classify the main significant patents in the work; or articulate some contextualizing syntaxes of the images; and much less, of course, to project and purpose a technic of acceptable reading, coherent and productive.
A specific feature of the Bosco is precisely the iconographic originality; this makes that the interpretation of his work shun the conventional exegetical procedures and the classificatory manners stablished. The key is precisely in approach in a correct manner the code of the language used. This, obviously, has not been done.
…as consequence, until now, the trees have not allowed to see the rainforest…
Especially in The Garden of Earthly Delights –but also in the rest of his work- Bosch shows a much defined artistic personality (abundantly reflected in the style); in his creating attitude stand an unused discursive desire. A feature of the narrative technique that employs the brabantino master is in that that he says, the manner of expressing it and the material performance, even the same paint (as such support and frame); become manifest components of a particular particular formula, at least in the altarpieces. As consequence, all viable conceptual resolution about motives and contents must attend simultaneously and entirely to the constitutive conventions: compositional (iconography, layout, placement, shape, color, handedness, etc.., etc..) and constructive incuse (triptych, plans, parts) that determine the structure, el conjunto orgánico de la obra.
The case of the Garden is extraordinarily complex… The mobile artefact, desplegable- the triptych-, calculated and detailed illustrated, condenses and articulates a diversity of interactive structures that, in its combination, forms a sophisticated technological tool of communication.
The study that follows this presentation, De Mechanica Mundi, is especially oriented to unravel the technic of the language used by the painter and, in consequence, to explore the meaning of his more emblematic works. And especially to reveal the ideological summa that represents the The Garden of Earthly Delights.
From the development of a exegetical method that related the structural and iconological analysis (unedited in this subject) it was possible to find certain keys of the eidetic system that fits the significant reasons, what, as consequence, would bring closer the possibility of a general understanding of the pictures of Bosco. Regarding to the Garden my observations points to a coherent organic reading, ordered, complete and deep of the altarpiece. This intellectual contribution, although primordial, never has been proposed strictly in this way and, therefore, no ne before has contributed or suggested.
In this essay, DMM, prominently practical-methodically as expeditiously as somewhat effective point-, it always predominates a possibilistic-structural approach (idea-form vs suitable archetype) oriented to a hypothetical cosmological contextualization, but plausible, that leads, at the same time, to a dramatical notion “allegory able” transcendent (in accordance with some preexisting cultural pattern) de tipo tradición o ideología.
Under this strategy elucidating, eminently empirical, “sensitive” emerging issues are addressed at length in an attempt to achieve their potential performance. The default of this analytical procedure aims to establish and better explain the framework, the structure, in order to address the general issue there. In any case neither party departed priori ideological or any dramatic sign; Maximizer nor other approach.
According to this elucidating strategy, of essentially empirical nature, the emerging “sensitive” topics are much approached with the intentionality of achieve its entire potential yield. The aim of this analytic procedure is to stablish and to explain better the framework, the structure, for being able to approach in that way the general issue. In any case it is not broke part of priori ideological or any dramatic sign; nor other maximalist approach.
Pnofsky says. Whether we deal with historical or natural phenomena, the individual observation of phenomena assumes the character of a ‘fact’ only when it can be related to other, analogous observations in such a way that the whole series ‘makes sense.’ This ‘sense’ is, therefore, fully capable of being applied, as a control, to the interpretation of a new individual observation within the same range of phenomena. Dice Gombrich: The higher the number of “messages” that have meaning in the light of a given solution, the lower the chance that it is a mere fortuitous coincidence. The specific iconography, if known understand and explore its features scenic landmarks, will deliver the relevant narrative results, if any.
In DMM, in its first part, it is shown, disaggregated, theoretical principles essential of the performance of the picture, reflected in these concrete examples that, in practice, serve as thematic initiation.
There arise basic issues relative to the dispositions in the space (cosmography) and to the language (symbolism), basic and essential constitutive questions that contribute to the general theorist formulation. Thereby we find that JD is like a ground plane, a huge chart. The exposition is plenty of argument economy which allows moving more quickly to a narrative praxis. Then, in a more paused and gradual way, there are approached the topics that lead to a culmination of the plot, peak and end from of what it is pretended to obtain, in retrospective, the general understanding of the program. From that it is pretended to ratify with certainty and distance that confers the vision from the top of the pyramid, our theories. This advantageous perspective allows arranging, prioritizing and coordinating the different and disperses components that had been previously treated in a more experimental way. This final stage represents a gloss above the architectonic configuration that lead to the apex. Or it would be as the elevation projection.
The inquiring principle adopted always started from a presumptive existence of internal logic, fuere aquella la que fuere, and the hypothesis of that the work of having an ideological coherence grounded. Because if not, it only could be thought, that the entire topic would be reduced to a genius manifestation but eccentric and, maybe, insane of the author.
In the beginning of the searching it was applied by system the more simple inquisitive formula:-¿What is this?/¿Why is there? This simple technique, almost maieutic, led to stablish the principles of religious background and the type of visual language, and the disposition dramatic-narrative. (Linear Reading; Cycles). From this pointit is stablished a very productive correlation between the gnomonic cosmography and the (escatocosmogónico) historical Christian pattern.
Then there are discovered some hidden schemes such as crypted costelations under the key figures. This provides the certainty of a locked episodic approach, and it denotes the existence of a powerful allegoric approach. Due to the observed cryptic purpose and to the compact substrate diagrammatic, it was reached the final conviction of being facing of esoteric features and a strange piece that required a special exegetical treatment.
In last instance, the interaction of varied concurrent vectors projected the probable object of the dedication of the altarpiece, a concrete and transcendental date. This date, because of its presumed sign and its prophetic destiny, would appear as the driving force of the complex and admirable program of the triptych, full of references, calculations and eschatological reflections.
The expectations and fairs of an inminent Adventus domini must had great influence above the concerns and religious, social and existential attitudes of the painter, and its environment, and maybe this explains tis moral and ideological radicalism, the so called “pessimism” and, at the same time, the deep motivations of his venturesome imaginary. The triptych the Garden must rigorously and widely express the anthropologic criteria and the pious guidelines of the brothers of Our Lady of s`Hertogenbosch of that days. In a way the program of the altarpiece intended to be a universal compendium, a summa, but of apocalyptic profile. According to this, the triptych of the Garden would have to be projected and elaborated on the basis of a calculated prognostic of the close and inexorable of the end of the world. From an original and unusual prophecy, expressed technically a sui generis way, in a painting. Definitely this extraordinary painting is, and it will have to be known in this way, one of the greatest artistic creations of the history. It is a work of a great accomplishment because of its designing and manufacture, unique in its gender. The truth is that it had never been painted any like this, it was never produced again such a complex, wide, deep and ambitious pictorial work.
The most curious, surprising and exceptional thing is that it exist “an invisible painting” behind the Garden. In other words, the altarpiece in its topics and apparent motives is, in fact, the reflection of a voluminous wealth of ideas, which are rigorously built over patterns of a complex machine that, on the whole, must be decoded- like dissected- for its understanding. All of this, of course, does not detract from the purely artistic aspect worth the work. An evidence of its technic, stylistic and esthetic merits is that, even being its deep intentions absolutely unknown, it enjoys an extraordinary fame and sympathy, being a continuous cultural reference and a claim to the most diverse thing.
Finally, is fair to pay tribute to all art historians and researchers that have contributed to the knowledge of the affections of historical data and environmental circumstances of the painter. Essential work, so much useful as inspiring, to reach the gothic heights of this huge and indelible factory.
I confess that I read more things in this painting (The Hay Wain), in a brief glance, that in other books a lot of days. The other painting (The Garden of the Delights) of the futile glory and brief taste of strawberry or madroño and its whiff that is hardly felt, when it is past, is the most ingenuous and of most artifice thing that it can be imagined. And I say the truth, that if it would be taken for some purpose and a great genius would like to declare it, he would make a very profitable book. I have purposed myself to carefully scrutinize all, with honesty and careful effort, with the aim of being able to explain it and proclaim it, to the glory of the painter. For the moment, the literary results have not made good these words of Fray José de Sigüenza. But it is precisely why, with this sign of the progress made, and from these lines, convenient help to enable at least the attempt is requested.
Luis Sánchez Pena
(Intro a DMM, traducción: Amara Pérez Davila)