Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Wolf and the Little Nun: a Faery Tale

That Hieronymus Bosch, what a kidder. In trying to find images for my last post (which, by the way, I photographed myself, so don't make any stupid comments), I found this. I can only look at Bosch a little piece at a time, for the horror of his dark world disturbs me too much. I remember reading a remarkable book called Leap by Terry Tempest Williams, a Mormon writer who decided to analyze and decipher the hidden meanings in Bosch's masterpiece, The Garden of Delights. When I first saw it, I thought, OK then, if this is delight, I'd like to see purgatory!

This little detail of one of his paintings, I don't know which one, just caught me. I isolated the figure of the nun (for surely that's a nun) who might be doing one of several things: holding her hands up in surrender, keeping the wolf at bay, or gesturing it forward.

In the foreground, a wolf ravages a figure that I at first thought was female, but upon closer inspection is a man. He appears to be offering little resistance (i.e. he is either caressing the wolf, or half-heartedly pushing it away, though his hand looks red and mangled.) The wolf has a knife weirdly stuck through the skin on its back. 

But this other bit, the wolf and the little nun: I had to isolate her and do my usual color invert and see what happened. Most of the time this doesn't do anything but make a picture look weird, but once in a while (as with my very ordinary amateur paintings), something unexpected pops out.

Bosch was a subtle fellow, and he may have known something about the negative of a picture, even if such a thing did not remotely exist in his time. For who do we see when the painting is inverted?

It's all too strange, too strange to be comprehended. I'm glad I didn't know the fellow.

(Postscript, from the next day: Jesus! If this really is supposed to be The Man, he's in the classic pose of crucifixion. All that's missing is the cross. That Bosch. Such a kidder.)