Written by Jonathan Wojcik
October 12: Things from Bosch's "The Temptation of St. Anthony"
Things from Bosch's "The Temptation of St. Anthony"
Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch was one of the most daring surrealists of the fifteenth century, his often ecclectic and disturbing imagery packed with hidden social commentary still being unraveled centuries later. Most famous for his lurid depictions of hell, demons and the end of of the world, there are very few artists who wouldn't recognize his style, and If you've seen much of my own art, you can probably already tell where a few of my recurring themes were born. As we near Halloween, I'm going to review some of my personal favorites from Bosch's bewildering beastiary, beginning with his Temptation of St. Anthony!
The Delivery Bird
If I described to you an ice-skating, flightless bird with long floppy ears and a funnel for a hat that delivers mail, would anything entering your mind be anything but adorable, whimsical and innocent? It's funny how hard mainstream horror artists try to keep their underlying concepts so stale and serious, when Bosch was demonstrating about five hundred years ago how easily literally anything can be unnerving with the right mood and context.
The Hunting Party
A lot of interesting fashion statements in this merry band, especially the entire hollow tree worn as a helmet. The armored being with the hand on his head and no other obvious arms is my favorite here, but the unicorn-catfish they've brought home is also something special.
The Skull-faced Rider
A little horse-skulled man playing a harp would be eerie enough on its own, but that phallic, naked chicken-nipple riding beast is equally disconcerting. They're such a perfect pair, and seem especially peaceful compared to the other fiends. You can tell they care a lot about each other.
The Penguin Eater
Not the penguins! They only just hatched, all out of the same egg! They do that, right? The big-headed bird gulping them down is made even less pleasant with its little canine teeth and greedy, nearly human eyes.
I love how these three just look shocked and outraged by whatever it is they're reading. The bird's nest hat is cute, since I can only interpret it as holding the bird-demon's own egg. Not quite as cute is the huge, gaping hole in the dog-man's side, oozing blood and viscera from the back of his ribcage. I'm sure this all says something very subversive about the institute of the Church or something, but I'm taking these at face value here, because I am a superficial child.
The Dinner Party
Well, to me it looks like a dinner party, anyway. This could almost all pass for normal, except for the little egg-carrying toad-baby, and that pipe-faced, bird-eyed figure lurking in the back, clearly up to no good and almost looking straight at us, like we both know what's about to go down. I mean, we don't, but he's presuming we do.
The Flying Reaper
There are lots of weird things flying around in the sky of the Temptation, but one of my favorites is the scythe-carrying demon far off in the distance, which seems to have a featureless egg-like body, a stovepipe on top and a reptilian or insectile head which points straight down.
Stabbed Faceless Guy
There's something about a round, faceless head with a knife in it that's ten ways more nauseating than a regular head with a knife in it, while the eye and long, black tongue poking out from the oversized hat implies even more monstrous, unseen anatomy. I like that this horrible mutant probably has to hop everywhere with that one giant, spiked shoe.
Fish-riding Fish Knight
Alright, just what does this fish-riding fish think he's doing with that fish?! Yeah, you better pray, bitch, you're about to get fishslapped!
Stay tuned for more cultured, intelligent artistic analysis in the coming weeks!
HALLOWEEN 2012 ARCHIVE: