That strong emotions have irresistible power over us is undeniable. What can be denied, or ignored, is the all-pervasive influence of even low-grade emotion on society and its members. The Australian Research Council (ARC) is funding a project to investigate the effects of emotion on European life in the second millennium. Schwartz brings back a progress report on emotion in art. Continue reading “351 The emotional turn”
Lead essay in the catalogue of an exhibition at the Bucerius Forum, Hamburg, 4 June-11 September 2016: Verkehrte Welt: das Jahrhundert von Hieronymus Bosch, edited by Michael Philipp
The essay argues that the Garden of Delights by Jheronimus Bosch is based on the first account of creation in the Bible. Genesis 1 speaks of the creation of man and woman simultaneously, both in the image of God. No prohibition is expressed against eating forbidden fruit; the first humans are not disobedient; there is no serpent to tempt them; they are not embarrassed by their nakedness; they are not expelled from Eden and cursed with a life of hard work and painful childbearing. This picture corresponds to the left panel of the Garden of Delights. The spectacular center panel shows what the world would have looked like had the Fall of Man not taken place, had mankind been free merely to “be fruitful and multiply.”
The hell panel is compared by the author to the 12th-century Vision of Tundale, a Dutch translation of which was published in Den Bosch in 1484. The point of both works is to frighten the reader or viewer into repenting from sin before it is too late. The message is not one of inevitable damnation, but of how to achieve salvation, as did Tundale.
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The opposition between the parched land in Bosch’s Haywain and the unquenchable thirst of its inhabitants for dry hay is contrasted to the mouthwatering abundance of the aqueous Garden of Delights. Schwartz suggests that this supports his interpretation of the Garden as a fulfillment of God’s command to the first man and woman. Continue reading “346 Bosch’s dry Haywain and his sopping wet Garden of Delights”
Jheronimus Bosch painted a man having a flower removed from his head, with an inscription speaking of a stone being cut out. Schwartz cannot explain why, but he nonetheless proposes a new theory of what is going on in the painting. He sees more empathy in it than scorn. Continue reading “343 A medical opinion from Jheronimus Bosch”
Key features of the art of Jheronimus Bosch are illuminated by a book published in the Netherlands in the artist’s early years. Raymond Sebond’s Natural theology, or Book of the creatures, can help us understand what God was doing with a book at the creation and why the Garden of earthly delights looks so unnatural. Continue reading “340 Jheronimus Bosch and the Book of Nature”
Rembrandt’s last dated drawing and the painting that was on his easel when he died both depict the same subject – Simeon with the Christ child in the Temple – in much the same way. In honor of the memorable exhibition Late Rembrandt Schwartz publishes some thoughts on these exceptional works.
Between the 1610s and 1650 an enchanting form of painting was produced in Antwerp and Antwerp alone: the kunstkamer painting, an evocation of an art collection in which actions of various kinds take place. Love of art is not the only kind of love expressed in these paintings. In one of the very earliest examples of the genre, Schwartz discovers conjugal and filial love as well as love for God. Continue reading “311 Love in the huiskamer”
A painting by Jan Steen of a wedding night disturbed by a demon and saved by an archangel was cut in two in the distant past and put back together again in 1996. Ownership of the larger, more attractive part has now been awarded to the heirs of a Dutch Jewish art dealer to whom it belonged in 1940. What is going to happen now? Ending with an appeal to Marei von Saher.
One in so many Western works of art contains an image of a person we would call black. The phenomenon attracts relatively little attention in art history. The Menil Foundation went after it seriously, in a project now inherited by the Warburg Institute. An exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam offers a sanitized view of the black in Dutch and Flemish art. Continue reading “291 Image of the beautiful black”