Hieronymus Den Bosch (2)- Pilgrims, Saints and Monsters

I think that the painter, Hieronymous Bosch is possibly the first animated film-maker of western history. His”monsters” and “creatures” anticipate science fiction, comics and graphic design. It makes me think of the amazing drawings and figures of film maker and visionary Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Laberynth, Hellboy, amongst many others)! In his paintings, winged creatures share the space with exotic animals, genetically engineered beings, and an amount of what would be the “folk” of his days.

Creatures. Drawings in situ, by Beatriz Acevedo

One of the most interesting features of this exhibition is the combination of such big paintings with small drawings. The condensation of creatures and sketches is a real revelation on the way in which the artists’ mind operated. Take for example his drawings on pilgrims and beggars… their features, physiognomies and stories etched in the body of such characters. Those are the models for the large scenarios of Biblical stories : tales of saints and their temptations, martyrs, battles and  folk tales.

Pilgrims. Drawings in situ, by Beatriz Acevedo

Take for instance the Temptation of St Anthony: a story that has been widely represented in the story of Western Art. According to Wikipedia, the story of Anthony is told by Athanasius of Alexandria and it helped to spread the concept of Christian monasticism; notwithstanding, there had been other monks living like hermits, but St Anthony’s sojourn into wilderness had made him famous. In the story, Anthony meets a number of supernatural creatures: first, a satyr and a centaur, also he is tempted with silver and gold. In Den Bosch interpretation of his story (present in few paintings), St Anthony is besieged by little devils, small creatures that nevertheless are implacable. Here there are not dragons, krakens or big monsters, but those little almost impertinent devils can be as tenacious as the biggest foes.  The very size of the devils makes them look a bit cartoonish, satirical and terrifying, and somehow I think that Den Bosch predates and inaugurates an era of comics, of story telling of what we call the “graphic novel” or the “illustrated (children) books”. Is this cat with a lizard tale an unsung ancestor of Puss in Boots? or perhaps the four legged dwarf/pilgrim? or an strange creature, half dinosaur, half chicken, with echoes with the Russian Baba Yaga?

Monsters. Drawings in situ, by Beatriz Acevedo

I love these little creatures, they catch my attention in every painting of this exhibition. In contrast to some people opinion, far from finding them “scary”, I admire the imagination and the variety of such funny creatures. of course, I don’t want to meet them in a dark night… but it makes me think until what extent those monsters that we think are surrounding us, are rather funny little creatures just calling for our attention. And this is also part of what I have mentioned before about Den Bosch ethical standing… we decide what are the monsters we create and feed. As the old story goes “good” and “evil” coexist in our lives, one fighting over the other… who wins? well, that depends on who we feed the more…




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