Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 - 1516 ): Hell (the lower part of

Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 - 1516 ): Hell (the lower part of

6/19/2021, 11:17:36 AM
Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 - 1516 ): Hell (the lower part of the panel) (The right wing of Haywain Triptych), c. 1510-16, Oil on panel, 135 x 45 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid In the right-hand panel of Haywain Triptych, Bosch depicts Hell in an innovative manner; in contrast to his other depictions of it, this one is still in the making. Like builders, the devils hurry to complete the circular tower, carrying their building materials up a long ladder located in the same position as the one that leans against the haywain, while others prepare the mortar in order to build the tower’s walls even higher. Concentrating on their labours, they have their backs to the devils who constantly bring in new sinners to receive their punishments. There stands tall blasted ruin silhouetted against the flaming background and the damned souls struggling helplessly in the lake below, although the foreground is dominated by a new motif, a circular tower whose process of construction is shown in circumstantial detail. One demon climbs a ladder with fresh mortar for the devil masons on the scaffolding above, while a black-skinned companion raises a floor beam with a hoist. The significance of this feverish activity is not clear. Towers abound in medieval descriptions of Hell, but the devils are usually too busy ministering to their victims to engage in such architectural enterprises. Bosch's tower may be a parody of the infamous Tower of Babel with which men sought to storm the gates of Heaven itself. In this case it would symbolize Pride, the sin which caused the fall of the Rebel Angels and which is exemplified by the worldly prince and prelate and their retinue behind the haywain.

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