Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

Symbol and Meaning in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance

Marrow 1986
Marrow, James H.
Genre: Nonfiction, art history
Uitgave datum: 1986
Bron: Simiolus, vol. 16 (1986), nr. 2/3, pp. 150-169

Marrow 1986


“Symbol and Meaning in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance” (James H. Marrow) 1986

[in: Simiolus, vol. 16 (1986), nr. 2/3, pp. 150-169]


In this article Marrow presents the thesis that in a number of late-medieval paintings some kind of visual dialogue is stimulated between the spectator and the paintings’ protagonists. This is the case in the work of Hieronymus Bosch, for example in his representations of the Passion: Christ does not pay attention to his surrroundings, but he looks at the spectator in order to provoke an emotional reaction. The same is done by the figure of St. Anthony on the central panel of the St. Anthony triptych in Lisbon [pp. 164-165].


In the Madrid Seven Deadly Sins panel the spectator is drawn into the painting even more strongly: by means of Christ rising from his tomb in the panel’s center, by means of the text cave cave dominus videt and by means of the central all-seeing eye.


In all these paintings Bosch appeals to the spectator’s conscience: not only does the latter receive visual information about the represented subjects, but he is also incited to change his attitude, because he not only watches, but at the same time he is being watched by the paintings’ protagonists (in the case of the Madrid Seven Deadly Sins even by the painting itself) [pp. 165-166].



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