Bosch: Biographical and Critical Study

Bosch: Biographical and Critical Study

Bosch: Biographical and Critical Study

Bosch: Biographical and Critical Study

Excerpt

The dawn's undoing is the new-born day; The dusk's is nightfall blanketing the world. Once there were children of the dawn . . .

RENIÉ CHAR.

BETWEEN the tranquil landscape, all in small, light, conventional touches, which acts as a backdrop to the Brussels Crucifixion and the luminous, smoothly modulated landscape of the Temptation of St Anthony in the Prado, Bosch's art underwent an evolution, one of whose distinctive phases is illustrated by the Ghent St Jerome in Prayer . More compact, better composed, less literary than the St Jerome panel in the Altarpiece of the Hermits (Ducal Palace, Venice), the Ghent St Jerome in Prayer brilliantly combines the poetry of the fantastic and that of nature: nature perverted by Satan and nature in her pristine purity; nature enemy of man and that kindly nature where all is peace, good-will, serenity.

In the foreground the atmosphere remains polluted. The embers of hell fire still are smoldering and queer little crackling sounds break the silence. The soil is scorched and charred and the vegetation has retained its menacing, jagged spikes. The thorns suggest instruments of torture, the hollow oak recalls a bygone temptation, a broken gourd lies stranded in a pool. Perched on a dead branch, an owl (symbol of heresy), keeps watch. Colors are warm and forms are skillfully picked out with the luminous white specks characteristic of the Boschian technique. In the midst of this strange setting where all life seems in abeyance, the saint is praying, a crucifix resting on his emaciated arms. He has flung away his scarlet cardinal's robe, it lies across a hollow tree-trunk. In the "holy solitude of . . .

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