Hieronymus Bosch – The Temptation of Saint Anthony (Anne F. Francis) 1980
[Exposition Press, Smithtown (New York), 1980, 61 pages]
[Also mentioned in Gibson 1983: 106-107 (E196)]
According to this American author Bosch was no doubt a faithful Christian: his paintings are actually painted sermons. Otherwise, this book offers a rather superficial approach of the Lisbon Temptations of St Anthony triptych. Francis does not present a profound analysis of the triptych but discusses a number of alchemical, Biblical, astrological and historic elements of the panels in a random way.
Her discussion includes a number of dubious statements. Francis pays a lot of attention to the ‘frog-idol’ (an idea she borrowed from Fraenger) that is supposed to dominate the triptych. The bird devouring its own hatched young in the lower left interior panel ‘assuredly’ refers to the Italian monk Savonarola and the creature with the head of a deer, moving towards the ‘giant-brothel’ with two sinister companions in the same panel, is said to represent a faithful Christian longing for God.
In particular this latter remark raises doubts about Francis’ expertise in the field of Bosch iconography. The most interesting information offered by this book is that thanks to a recent cleansing a zodiac has become visible (on the stage in the central panel, next to the seated figure with the top hat), a detail that can also be seen in a number of copies on the same spot.