Friday, April 1, 2016

The Fountain of Life

The Garden of Earthly Delights is an epic that takes place at once. If Time is involved, it is the time we take to read it. It took Bosch ten years to paint it.

Many of us have seen this work in pieces before seeing it in its entirety, if at all. These pieces have been broken down and pathologized, with symbols derived from the Bible.

Larry Solomon supplies a reading of the above detail, which appears in the first panel ("Paradise"):

This seemingly benign scene contains symbols that tell us that all is not well in paradise. The most telling is the owl (Satan) at the core of the Fountain of Life gazing at the jewels (souls) below, which are partly submerged (in danger) in the pool. A serpent winds around the Tree of Knowledge, a warning of the impending Fall. Strange dark reptiles (evil) emerge from a a pool. Crescent shapes (malignancies) and horns (warnings) adorn the Fountain. Beasts, both real and fanciful, cover the landscape, some preying on others. At the top left, birds enter a broken shell (degeneracy).

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