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exotic fruits arrived in European ports. It was an invitation to discovery that, rather than being reserved for a handful of courageous crews, was open to everyone. Following the rejection of medieval beliefs, there were not only geographical continents to explore, but also the secret regions of the soul. The discoveries made by Columbus, Vasco de Gama, Cabral, Magellan and Vespucci changed the map of the world and inaugurated a new period of doubts, surprises and choices.


exotic fruits arrived in European ports. It was an invitation to discovery that, rather than being reserved for a handful of courageous crews, was open to everyone. Following the rejection of medieval beliefs, there were not only geographical continents to explore, but also the secret regions of the soul. The discoveries made by Columbus, Vasco de Gama, Cabral, Magellan and Vespucci changed the map of the world and inaugurated a new period of doubts, surprises and choices.


2 The Fountain of Grace

I

n the centre of the landscape there is a pond from which a tall Gothic fountain, standing on what appears to be a rocky base, rises up, whose pink spire is a weird combination of architecture and nature. An owl is perching in the circular porthole in the lower part of the fountain. Bosch offers us an extraordinary interpretation of the Fountain of Grace playing in the heart of the Earthly Paradise. Several animals are drinking at the pond surrounding the fountain. We recognize some deer and a white unicorn – symbol of the pureness of man before the Original Sin. We shall come across these animals again in the circular cavalcade that dominates the central panel, which confirms the link between the two episodes. The serenity of the Earthly Paradise is not as real as it seems: Evil shows itself even here. On the right stands the Tree of Knowledge with the tempting serpent coiled around its trunk; monstrous reptiles, including some black toads – symbol of the Devil himself – are slithering across the shore of the pond, although these creatures do not appear in the central panel. Perhaps Bosch is trying to tell us that Evil has entered the world, indeed, it has permeated its inner core.

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2 The Fountain of Grace

I

n the centre of the landscape there is a pond from which a tall Gothic fountain, standing on what appears to be a rocky base, rises up, whose pink spire is a weird combination of architecture and nature. An owl is perching in the circular porthole in the lower part of the fountain. Bosch offers us an extraordinary interpretation of the Fountain of Grace playing in the heart of the Earthly Paradise. Several animals are drinking at the pond surrounding the fountain. We recognize some deer and a white unicorn – symbol of the pureness of man before the Original Sin. We shall come across these animals again in the circular cavalcade that dominates the central panel, which confirms the link between the two episodes. The serenity of the Earthly Paradise is not as real as it seems: Evil shows itself even here. On the right stands the Tree of Knowledge with the tempting serpent coiled around its trunk; monstrous reptiles, including some black toads – symbol of the Devil himself – are slithering across the shore of the pond, although these creatures do not appear in the central panel. Perhaps Bosch is trying to tell us that Evil has entered the world, indeed, it has permeated its inner core.

39


6 Beings in flight

T

he multicoloured rock formations in the background and the winged creatures flying through the sky evince a magmatic world in an extraordinary state of constant transformation, as one natural species merges with another nonstop: trees sprout from rocks and a flock of birds flies out of an outcrop, as if generated by the hollow stone. The horizon recedes into the far distance, and our astonished eye is always lighting on new figures, some of which are in tightly-knit groups. Here, too, the winged human beings in flight or those riding fantastical animals, cannot be interpreted clearly: are they allusions to the myth of Icarus or the inevitable Fall? Alchemical references? Representations of unbridled lust or of the soul lifted up to heaven? Any interpretation is possible, but so is its opposite. Often considered a diabolical painter of hellish scenes, here Bosch also shows us a beautiful side: he allows himself to be seduced by a spring day, by an expanse of brilliant blue sky that lights up the emerald meadows. His painting teaches us to enjoy these moments, to love the world for what it is, without letting ourselves get carried away by a craving for earthly goods that ruin our lives and lead us to perdition, between monsters and hellfire.

56


6 Beings in flight

T

he multicoloured rock formations in the background and the winged creatures flying through the sky evince a magmatic world in an extraordinary state of constant transformation, as one natural species merges with another nonstop: trees sprout from rocks and a flock of birds flies out of an outcrop, as if generated by the hollow stone. The horizon recedes into the far distance, and our astonished eye is always lighting on new figures, some of which are in tightly-knit groups. Here, too, the winged human beings in flight or those riding fantastical animals, cannot be interpreted clearly: are they allusions to the myth of Icarus or the inevitable Fall? Alchemical references? Representations of unbridled lust or of the soul lifted up to heaven? Any interpretation is possible, but so is its opposite. Often considered a diabolical painter of hellish scenes, here Bosch also shows us a beautiful side: he allows himself to be seduced by a spring day, by an expanse of brilliant blue sky that lights up the emerald meadows. His painting teaches us to enjoy these moments, to love the world for what it is, without letting ourselves get carried away by a craving for earthly goods that ruin our lives and lead us to perdition, between monsters and hellfire.

56



Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights