Au coeur de la violence, Jérôme Bosch. Le Portement de Croix de Gand (Jean-Marie Tézé) 1998
[Nouvelles Editions Mame, Paris, 1998, 112 pages]
This modest monograph was written by the French Jesuit, sculptor and art historian Jean-Marie Tézé and deals with the Carrying of the Cross panel (Ghent, Museum of Fine Arts) which is attributed to Bosch. An obvious benefit of this book are the numerous and high-quality colour illustrations of details. The text is less outstanding, though. On the first page already it does not meet with scholarly standards because the author categorically states that the Carrying of the Cross panel was painted around 1516. On page 16 we even read that the Carrying of the Cross was ‘undoubtedly’ Bosch’s last work. The rest of Tézé’s text is mainly characterized by pseudo-poetical diffuseness and tiresome subjective descriptions with only sporadical concrete ideas.
Bosch was a member of the Fraternity of Our Lady which is supposed to have been influencd by the Brethren of the Common Life, an order that was inspired by the spirit of the Modern Devotion, with strong emphasis on personal meditation [p. 11]. Bosch’s oeuvre oscillates between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and is not similar to any other oeuvre, whereas within Bosch’s oeuvre the Ghent Carrying of the Cross is not similar to any other work of Bosch [p. 15]. The early sixteenth century showed a growing interest in the ideas about temperaments and physiognomy and in the depiction of caricatures, as is shown by the paintings of Da Vinci and Dürer. It is not surprising then that Bosch also focuses on this, but he does it in his own way: the distorted faces he paints, represent human passions and vices [p. 42].
The opposition between innocence (Christ, Veronica) and sin is one of the leitmotivs in this panel [p. 66]. Sin is not represented by means of infernal images and corporal punishment, but by means of monstrous heads referring to the evil inside [p. 85]. By emphasizing the aggression caused by vices, Bosch is a relative of the humanists. He painted sermons in which he attacked the depraved morals of his times. His pessimistic and satirical approach is very close to that of the Alsatian humanist Sebastian Brant [p. 94]. What Bosch paints in his Carrying of the Cross are masks, types, anonymous figures referring to everybody (also the spectator of the panel) who suppresses an innocent victim [p. 104].
[explicit 24th May 2008]