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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 05:44 Thread Starter
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Favorite works of art

A work that moved me was Nighthawk by Edward Hopper.

The color, the difficult angle of the painting, the sharp lighting, the contrasting emotions of security versus fear, safety versus the unknown was exciting. The bar was like an oasis, the outside was dark and frightening. I looked deeply into the windows across the street, almost certain someone was lurking and watching. Something ominous. It excited me.

Here's the painting.



Do you have any you like?

Was McFail.

But wishing I was Fankoush.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 07:35
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Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights triptych (a bigger version lies beyond that link) has fascinated me since the first time I saw it, when I was still a teenager. There's so much to explore and discover there, and so many symbols whose meaning aren't immediately recognizable 5 centuries later... few works of art in history have brought this level of elaboration and forethought, and sadly most modern art doesn't even try to climb this high.

The three segments of the triptych are three separate scenes, but together they offer what we could almost describe as a narrative. On the left side we have the Garden of Eden, where God (who looks a lot like His son Jesus) is introducing Adam (who's just awakening) to Eve (who chastely looks down as Adam admires her).



But there's more to this scene, much more than just the world's first blind date. Below the 1st Couple Ever, several creatures lounge around a circular pond/pool - from common animals such as a cat carrying a rat on his mouth to a handful of hybrids and monsters. In the pond, a fish with a duck's head reads a book because why not, bizarre vegetation casually signifies how different this garden is from any garden we've ever known... and slightly above Eve, on the right side, a serpent slithers around a tree, reminding us that we know how this story goes (spoilers: Adam and Eve are evicted).


(Above, from left to right: a dog with only two limbs, a white giraffe and the serpent around the tree - plus assorted weirdness all around)

Then there's the central part, the titular 'Garden of Earthly Delights', which could best be described as the world's freakiest cross-species orgy olympics lollapalooza.



In a surrealist garden of giant fruits and odd organic shapes, countless naked men and women cavort, prance about, chill at the lake, ride horses, caress each other's genitals, engage in undescribable group activities and generally behave with no shame. I can only wonder how the folks from the 15th century reacted to this imagery, as even my jaded modern eyes sometimes bug out at the sight of Bosch's "Earthly Delights". At least everyone looks like they're having loads of fun.


(Above: Maybe I'm a prude, but I really don't want to try that)

The Garden of Earthly Delights that Bosch reveals is a place of no inhibitions, no gender preferences or racial barriers, and unrestrained insanity everywhere you look. It's a deranged playground of debasement, where gigantic ducks play with tiny people near gigantic fruits, winged fish walk on land, and nude couples make out inside floating transparent spheres. Bosch's imagination ignores reality and recreates it with wild abandon as an allegory for physical pleasures, that seem to simultaneously condemn and enjoy mankind's forbidden urges. And that implied condemnation of debauchery leads this visual narrative straight to the right side of the triptych: Hell itself, the place where all those nude people should expect to go to when the party's over.



The most famous piece of iconography from this triptych belongs to this segment: the "tree-man" whose torso resembles a shattered eggshell. It's interesting to note that this thing's face is actually Bosch's self-portrait. Above the tree-man's head, devils and humans walk hand-in-hand around a bagpipe (which, I've later learned, is supposed to symbolize genitalia) without any apparent purpose beyond making the rounds. Within the tree-man's torso, gamblers and alcoholics hang out as if they were at the pub, unaware of the large pantless creature with an arrow shoved into its arse that's climbing the stairs towards them. This tree-man is the Anti-Christ, a leader around whose ideas men will foolishly gravitate, and who has nothing inside him but vice. Behind him, a pair of ears carried by human slaves wields a blade. If you glance around this scene, you'll find humans being punished for each of the Seven Deadly Sins. For example, in the picture below we have a lustful sinner being punished by having a flute stuck into his arse, and a vain woman gazes at her own reflection on a devil's backside while another devil gropes her body. Above them we see a bird-headed creature, wearing a cauldron on his head (a mockery of a crown) and sitting on a 'throne' (is this the King of Hell?) while he devours corpses and defecates them right out, a fitting punishment for the gluttonous.



All this and much more; I've probably bored you all to tears and yet I've barely scratched the surface of this compelling, disturbing and extremely rich piece of art. It may not be the best decoration for your living-room, but it's a layered and intriguing exploration of catholic concepts - that takes those concepts far far beyond what priests describe to their congregations. This is HARDCORE art, son.

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
~Martin Luther King Jr.

Last edited by Grinch; March 23rd, 2011 at 07:49.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 08:44 Thread Starter
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I've seen it before and thought it was weird, but I've never given it the kind of attention you have until you posted this.

Some parts of it are so WTF and I'm wondering what was going through the painter's head.

I'm looking forward to going over it in more detail, but you know what really caught my eye?

2nd frame, bottom half, find the glass sphere with two people in it. Now look immediately to the right.

WTF is that dude doing

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But wishing I was Fankoush.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 15:31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCFail View Post
Some parts of it are so WTF and I'm wondering what was going through the painter's head.
The thing is, Bosch's works are FILLED with symbols whose meaning was lost in the 5 centuries that separate us from their original times, making the images more baffling than they were meant to be. Just as we have visual signifiers/symbols that wouldn't be understood in the 15th century (like a lightbulb over one's head representing a new idea), there are many symbolisms that were much clearer back then (not ALL of them, though; there are some alchemical symbols that the average 15th century man wouldn't have grasped either). This page translates some of those forgotten symbols - fruits are symbols of carnal pleasure and mussel shells represent infidelity, for example.

And those glass spheres that you mentioned? They're symbols of alchemy, as glass reaction vessels were used in alchemical processes. So a couple inside a glass sphere is probably "under the influence" of controlled substances, and a couple inside a giant fruit (that symbolized carnal pleasure) means that they're fvcking.

Here are some of the symbols Bosch used and what they used to represent:

Pigs= false priests; gluttony

Fruit = carnal pleasure

Rats = lies against the Church;filth; sex

Fish =
false prophets; lewdness

Closed Books = futility of knowledge in
dealing with human stupidity


Flames = ergot poisoning; fires of Hell

Flying Monsters = hallucinations of ergot poisoning sufferers; devil's envoys

Keys = knowledge

Lutes and Harps = instruments for praise of God and pursuit of earthly love

Breasts = fertility

Mussel Shells = infidelity

Black Birds = unbelievers; death or rotting flesh (because black birds like crows and ravens scavenge from rotting corpses)

Knives = punishment of evil

Rabbits = multiplication of the race

Eggs = sexual creation; key symbol of alchemy

Ice Skaters = folly

Funnels = deceit and intemperance; false alchemist or false doctor

Strawberries = fleeting joys of life, love

Owls = great learning

Ears = gossip

Keeping in mind those symbolisms, the meaning of some of Bosch's works is much clearer. Take "The Cure of Folly" (a.k.a. "The Extraction of the Stone of Madness") for example, where a 15th century surgeon performs a trepanation on a patient's head in order to bleed out the evil spirits that dwelled inside. As you know, trepanation was a process where they drilled holes on the heads of mentally-disturbed people to remove bad spirits (it sounded like a good idea at the time).




If we consider that the funnel (worn by the surgeon as a hat) was a symbol for deceit and charlatan doctors/alchemists, and that the closed book (worn by the attending nun as a hat) represented the triumph of stupidity over knowledge, this is clearly a satirical piece, exposing these folks as charlatans who don't know what they're doing.

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
~Martin Luther King Jr.

Last edited by Grinch; March 23rd, 2011 at 15:42.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 16:13 Thread Starter
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That really is amazing.

I've always been skeptical of these hidden meaning things cuz it's easy to make them up and set up a totally bullshit sort of meaning system because anything is open to interpretation, but that example is pretty damn hard to be skeptical about.

He'd be a guy I'd wanna sit down and talk to over a cup of coffee.

Jesus, Grinch, this stuff is awesome! What got you into it? When did you see this work for the first time?

edit: The monk is the only guy who isn't mocked. The contrast is glaring. Is that an implication that he feared the wrath of the priests? Because if he did, the guy in the middle still looks like a dunce.

Was McFail.

But wishing I was Fankoush.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 16:46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCFail View Post
Jesus, Grinch, this stuff is awesome! What got you into it? When did you see this work for the first time?
I've collected books of art reproductions since I was about 15, and came across a book of Bosch reproductions around that time. Needless to say, it blew my mind, and since then I've been fascinated by the layers of meaning hidden on his work. And the internet made researching forgotten symbols MUCH easier.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MCFail View Post
edit: The monk is the only guy who isn't mocked. The contrast is glaring. Is that an implication that he feared the wrath of the priests? Because if he did, the guy in the middle still looks like a dunce.
Well, that depends on what that bottle on the monk's hand represented (I seriously doubt that it doesn't mean anything; nothing is casual in Bosch's work). The monk may be a fraud too, or maybe he's overlooking the others' charlatanism. :undecide:

Then again, maybe Bosch did fear the priests. He was certainly religious enough to be careful about such things.

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
~Martin Luther King Jr.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 18:22 Thread Starter
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You know, I think I found a clue to this. Instead of getting work done, here I was gazing at the piece, and particularly the apocalyptic third frame. [Hi def version]

Look at the bottom left half of the third frame. The topless woman. The flask in her hand is identical in appearance to the monk's. She has a dice on her head as well.

Below her, the man with a knife through his hand appears to have dropped the flask below him.

This thing has the potential to rob my entire day of any productivity.

Was McFail.

But wishing I was Fankoush.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 19:21
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 20:39
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Guys, Grinch is being modest. He's actually a very fine artist himself.

As for shopping sprees, one geeser had better ideas, a very long time ago ...



The Battle about Money, after 1570
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, active by 1551, died 1569)

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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old March 23rd, 2011, 21:09
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Oddly enought, Venus of Willendorf. Ca 25 000 year old figurette not bigger than your middle finger. It's presented inside a blackbox, just this one figure in bright light and most likely you are alone inside. Just you and that 25 000 year old thing.

Tazz forever
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old March 24th, 2011, 02:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCFail View Post
I'm looking forward to going over it in more detail, but you know what really caught my eye?

2nd frame, bottom half, find the glass sphere with two people in it. Now look immediately to the right.

WTF is that dude doing
The guy upside down grabbing his own genitalia while holding a giant fruit between his legs? I think he's masturbating (the symbol for carnal pleasure is being held between his legs and he's grabbing his junk with both hands - yup, he's a wanker). Being upside-down also suggests to me that he's doing something different from the others, who are playing in pairs or large groups.

But of course - that's open to interpretation, and that's the beauty of it.

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
~Martin Luther King Jr.
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old March 24th, 2011, 03:00
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The guy upside down grabbing his own genitalia while holding a giant fruit between his legs? I think he's masturbating
It just occurred to me that without context, this is a very disturbing sentence.

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
~Martin Luther King Jr.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old March 24th, 2011, 23:37
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I love your posts Grinch and McFish

As a young fan I was first a fan of Van Gogh's synthetic aestheticism. Other than that, I'm into the old cliches.









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