Wednesday, April 8
Walked to the Prado down poetry street, stopping for my café con latte and mini croissant at Le Bon Bon. I am now a regular – they get out the to-go cup and had my favorite croissant in the bag. Paused to gaze adoringly at the statue of Velasquéz at the entrance.
Nabbed my no-line entry ticket and checked my raincoat – cool enough to need an extra layer this morning, but the Prado is always toasty inside. Instead of finishing upstairs, I went straight to The Garden of Earthly Delights.
It’s twice as large in person as I imagined it was, just like Durër’s self-portrait is half as big.
The impact of scale is one of the reasons I don’t content myself with looking at art online, however closely gigapixels can get me.
I was a little stunned by Bosch, I’ll admit it. The impact of the pretty pinks and blues and greens in the center panel depicting utter weirdness – vicious imaginary creatures, surreal buildings, and humans tortured by monsters – is like listening to Hannibal Lector whistle Mary Had A Little Lamb. Jarring.
My eye skips around, and only slowly begins to really see what’s going on. There are nightmare hybrid creatures devouring humans that are trapped in a variety of inventive and horrifying way. In the third panel, Hell, it gets deeply gruesome, repugnant, repellent and fascinating.
If you are wondering what a ‘fate worse than death’ could be, you need look no further.
Couple of things; the room has other works by Bosch, but The Garden of Earthly Delight is the 800 pound Gorilla that siphons off the majority of the tourists, leaving his other disturbing works available to view in peace. The Haywain is my favorite.
After a while, a sense of horror sets in. What kind of sick, twisted, malevolent bastard invents this stuff?
Here’s my theory. Bosch was a third generation painter, he had skills, his work sold well, and like Petruchio, he wived it wealthily. He had strong faith but was not merely credulous (he was comfortable criticizing the clergy’s excesses – see the pig in a nun’s habit in hell). He was an esteemed member of The Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady. When Bosch died at the ripe age of 66 the society paid good coin for his funeral mass which included music and bell ringing and special prayers. He never had to declare bankruptcy, there is no record of lawsuits or criminal behavior.
I’m thinking he was like Stephen King, a popular guy who exorcized demons by for a living and went home at night happy man, easy going, kind to children, loved by his dog. Luckily for me, since they don’t have many facts about his personal life, I can think whatever I want.
If, like me, you’d like to learn more about the social context of the painter Hieronymus Bosch and the Delights of Hell. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bRBpg6eYac
It took quite a few rooms of excellent Flemish and Italian paintings to shake the spell of Bosch – it burned itself into more than my retinas.
Left at 2pm for a bite at the bakery I’ve seen more than one of around town and has been consistently tasty – little bites of cheese and ham, peach glazed cookies, hot chocolate. Proteins seem to escape me. Afterward, I walked over to the Fernan Gómez gallery to view A Su imagen; arte, cultura y religion. It’s an underground venue, literally, and across the street from the national library. Though I cannot read Spanish any better than I speak it, I took a photo of the library because you know, books.
I didn’t have high expectations of this exhibition, but I was happily surprised. All religious in theme, and much more accessible than work at the Prado. No crowds which made the work easier to spend time with, but also almost no security, which made ma a little uneasy for these works by Murillo, Goya, José de Ribera, Rubens and other masters.
There was one small work of Saint Joseph walking with his stepson that reminded me of my beloved spouse, who has been such a wonderful father; patient, loving, and devoted.
Started the long walk uphill to the apartment. Feel asleep at 8 with the computer open on my lap, watching the movie on Bosch. Got into bed at 8:30, and slept through until 7am. I think I might have turned the time zone around. I feel truly rested for the first time in a week.