Sign announcing the up-coming Bosch retrospective: Museo del Prado, June 2016
Attentive readers will note the irony: my visual pilgrimage to the realm of the Northern Renaissance begins in Madrid. This is strange, but not so unusual. In fact all three of my chosen destinations have an “atopic” element: the art is “not where it should be,” so to speak. In the case of Bosch, though he lived and worked in what is today the Netherlands, one of the best collections of his work is in Madrid, where it was brought to the court of Philip II in the late 1500s.
“Philip II of Spain broods in his palace-monastery, planning yet another Armada against Britain, his resolution to spread the faith undimmed by the fireships and storms that destroyed his water-borne army of 1588. He contemplates an altarpiece that some will one day call heretical. This painting in three panels contains inconceivable immensities, profane and sublime. A devil skating on the frozen lake of hell. A mutant heron-peacock with three heads. Naked riders in a frenetic circle . . . a bird-headed demon swallowing a man as it sits in its elegantly designed wooden toilet, which drops ingested victims inside transparent eggs down the abyss . . . “
Source: www.theguardian.com Aug. 2003
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