terça-feira, 21 de agosto de 2012

Hieronymus Bosch’s World Picture by Joseph Leo Koerner

In the memoirs of his field work in Brazil, Claude Lévi-Strauss describes the moment when alternative realities became a thing of the past.1 At the end of his travels in the Amazon basin, and after working among native peoples already in contact with the outside world, he got word of an “unknown” tribe living “still savage” in the upland jungles:

There is no more thrilling prospect for the anthropologist than that of being the first white man to visit a particular native community. ... I was about to relive the experience of the early travellers and, through it, that crucial moment in modern thought when, thanks to the great voyages of discovery, a human com­munity which believed itself to be complete and in its final form, suddenly learned, as if through the effect of a counter-revelation, that it was not alone, that it was part of a greater whole, and that, in order to achieve self-knowledge, it must first of all contemplate its unrecognizable image in this mirror, of which a fragment, forgotten by the centuries, was now about to cast, for me alone, its first and last reflection.2
The viewer is bound to the object in mutual destruction, and, as at an apocalypse, the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Lévi-Strauss, the last white man to thrill to a first encounter, will thereby exhaust the world of possible other worlds. And the last unknown tribe will lose its innocence of other worlds even as it resurrects, in the “counter'revelation” it offers, the white man’s own lost belief in a world that is final and complete.
By a coincidence of opposites, this “unknown” was also the historical remnant of modem Europe’s original Other. The tribe Lévi-Strauss sought consisted of “the last descendants of the great Tupi communities . .. whom the sixteentlvcentury travelers saw in their period of splendor.” In this déjà-vu of a people without history, Lévi- Strauss observes the cause of Europe’s modernizing pluralism and the founding instance of his science of man:
It was the accounts given by these travellers which began the anthropological awareness of modern times; it was their unintentional influence which set the political and moral philosophy of the Renaissance on the road that was to lead to the French Revolution. To be the first white man to set foot in a still-intact Tupi village would be to bridge a gap of four hundred years and to find oneself on par with . . . Montaigne who, in the chapter on cannibals in his Essays, reflected on a conversation he had had with Tupi Indians whom he met at Rouen.3
For Lévi-Strauss, the prospect of a belated return to his own historical origins is as thrilling as the promise of a first encounter with the last unknown. Indeed it is quite unclear whether his thrill derives from his anticipated encounter with savages or from his historical transport, through them, back to the originary moment of his own culture.
Lévi-Strauss arrives at the village of people who refer to themselves as Mundé, and sets about studying their “way of thinking and social organization.” But since he can­not speak their language and has no interpreter, he must leave empty-handed, con­cluding: “After an enchanting trip up-river, I had certainly found my savages. Alas! they were only too savage.”4 This sigh, heaved also in the title Tristes Tropiques, seems at first merely to express the disappointment of not having been adequately equipped, of having made contact without the tools to make sense. Yet it also describes the con­dition of mutual indecipherability that the ethnographer anticipates and desires.
Lévi-Strauss retreats, the better to prepare himself for surprise. Yet on his way back into the forest, embarked on a search for yet another “still-savage” tribe, he encounters something truly unexpected. Rounding a bend, he finds himself facing two natives traveling in the opposite direction. They are the leaders of the very tribe that the anthropologist seeks. Having “resolved to leave their village for good and join the civ­ilized world,”5 they bear with them their most precious possession, a live harpy eagle, as a gift for their future hosts.
The anthropologist arrives too early or too late. Either he encounters innocence and, “alas,” cannot penetrate it, or he finds it already on its way to him and therefore no longer pure. Lévi-Strauss bribes the leaders to go back to their village and the eagle, their totem, is “unceremoniously dumped by the side of a stream, where it seemed doomed to die.” Even while noting that the jettisoned bird meant the demise of the tribe’s identity, Lévi-Strauss returns the natives to their home, where they will play-act as savage informants, as inhabitants of a reality alternative to ours because ignorant of alternatives, forgetting for the while that they had already sought, and thus dwelt within, our now fully ubiquitous world.
For Lévi-Strauss, the forest is not paradisal but tragic. The savage other cannot be observed because it is “alas! too savage,” or it will have already discovered us and, measured against modernity, it again is “alas! poor savage.” Lévi-Strauss’s sadness may be merely a last Romantic yearning for lost innocence combined with the admon­ishment “we murder to dissect.” Yet it has relevance to our present situation at the end of the millennium, in an era of economic globalization, as we turn to wonders not in forests at the world’s edge, but in unrecognized historical cultures of a premodem past.
The anthropologist’s failed encounter with the unknown locates “alternative reali­ties” in history, defining them as both the founding modern experience and a retro­spective fantasy to an earlier time. Even as he laments the passing of indigenous cultures, Lévi-Strauss celebrates his inheritance from the first European explorers, tak­ing as much pleasure in his kinship with Montaigne as in his difference from the sav­ages. More important, he argues that, in its encounter with the New World, the Old World became conscious of its contingency, as a possible but not necessary world, and further that this contingency of worlds gave anthropology its object.
Traditionally defined as that which is but could be otherwise (or, in modal logic, as that which is both not necessary and not impossible), “contingency” is at once settling and unsettling.6 Europe’s unexpected encounter with America made surprises more expectable. Yet it also occasioned a yearning for lost certainty that, in time, fueled the very impulse to explore. Something of this benign, reflective exoticism is present in Lévi-Strauss’s encounter with the too-savage savages. Unlike the second tribe that he eventually studies, but that he must drive back to its village in order to do so, the sup­posedly still-indigenous Mundé are what he really wants to discover, even though their indecipherability leaves him “with a feeling of emptiness.” For according to a central Western myth, savages are defined as such by their hermeticism, by their pos­sessing not just a different view of the world, but no proper “view” at all: a reality that so embraces them that it does not admit of, or even give rise to the thought of, alterna­tives. The New World native, still unaware that it is but one world that he inhabits, becomes indeed a reflection of the European explorer, but of him before he discerns, in his encounter with the native, his own contingency.
This state of dwelling in a “world” without knowing it became a modern ideal. It was summed up in an untranslatable aphorism by Ludwig Feuerbach, composed a few years before the philosopher’s death in 1872: “In der Unwissenheit ist der Mensch bei sich zu Hause, in seiner Heimat; in der Wissenschaft in der Fremde”7 (meaning, roughly, “in unknowing man is at home with himself, in his native place; in knowledge, he is in exile”). The sentence surprises by breaking the connection between knowledge and certainty. Certainty, one thinks, depends on knowing, and it is the task of science (Wissenschaft) as defined by Rationalist thought since Descartes, to increase certi­tude, illuminate obscurity, and thus to domesticate the world. In stating, instead, that unknowing fosters belonging, Feuerbach, condensing the Romantic critique of Enlightenment, argues not that science has failed to produce, but rather that it has overproduced knowledge, and of a form that increases uncertainty. Where, for Thales, the first scientist, the world was still “full of Gods” (Plato, Laws 10.899B), for the postscientific temperament, the world now is full of theories, of infinite, contingent representations of world. Feuerbach yearns for what the late Hans Blumenberg once termed “the enclaves of unknowing after the triumph of Enlightenment.”8 In late- nineteenth-century Germany, these enclaves were discovered in the vanishing coun­tryside close to home, or, more powerfully, in Ferdinand Tônnies’s ideal of the closed, local, natural Gemeinschaft of the medieval town as set against the open, global, and constructed urban Gesellschaft of the modem world.9
In our own century, such imagined enclaves lie further afield, or are discerned, as in Lévi-Strauss, at the point of their extinction. Yet they survive in our thought in vari­ous vestigial phantasms of spatial belonging, in which, against the contingency and pluralism of the world, there is set the radically necessary and singular placement of the body. It appears crucially in Edmund Husserl’s notion of Lebenswelt,10 which influ­enced Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s “science of pre-science”: the utopia of an experience of world before science split “life” and “world.” The idea also animates Pierre Bour- dieu’s term “habitus,” defined, with reference to Poincaré, as “a system of axes linked unalterably to our bodies and carried about with us wherever we go.”11 In the writing of history today, it appears most often in idealizing descriptions of premodem spatiality and carnality, and in attempts at describing the medieval conception of the world as the representative alternative historical reality.12
Alternative realities, from this point of view, are those that do not know alternative realities. Life-worlds left with their prejudices intact, they are antithetical to our mod­em consciousness of contingency, which says that “truth is made rather than found,”13 even as it is only through this consciousness that one recognizes an alternative reality. For as Blumenberg argued early in his career, to speak of realities in the plural makes sense neither in the antique philosophical idea of the reality of instantaneous evi­dence, nor in the medieval theological doctrine of reality as guaranteed by God. Within the latter view, there may be diabolical deceptions of all kinds, but these are not plural realities but the plurality of falsehood. Only when reality is conceived as the result of the realization of specific contexts—in Blumenberg’s terms, when it is regarded as a certainty that constitutes itself only successively, as a never-final and absolute consistency, or as a consistency that refers always to a future in which ele­ments can emerge that might explode the earlier consistency and reveal it to be unreal—only then can one speak of “their” reality, or of “that” society’s reality, as being simultaneously real and unique.14
Since the late eighteenth century, the historicity of the idea that reality might be plural is most intensely argued with reference to the Weltanschauung. Kant coined the word in 1790 to explain why the “world,” as a totality, cannot be the object of a “view,” except from a transcendent perspective that, when intimated, occasions feel­ings of the sublime (Critique of Judgment).15 Once launched, the term took on an inde­pendent life. At one level, worldview came to indicate the specificity with which each person, culture, or era experiences the world. At another level, it described a subjec­tive relation to the world that was historically specific, and that emerged in Europe during the modem period in the wake of secularization. In this second, narrower defi­nition, worldview implied a particular, self-consciousness that reality is known only through the specific way it is seen. Under such pressures as science’s disclosure of plural worlds, the New World’s evidence of unknown peoples, and the early modem religious wars’ mutually exclusive truths, people—so the story goes—became conscious that their world, its consistency, truth, and purpose, was contingent on their having a spe­cific viewpoint on it. Instead of lamenting this as a loss, the philosophers of Weltan­schauung, from Christoph M. Wieland, Alexander von Humboldt, and Wilhelm Dilthey to Husserl, Karl Mannheim, and Karl Jaspers, celebrated viewpoint-awareness as a new center of spiritual meaning and as an antidote against the ever-expanding, decentered world being discovered by science. Worldview, in its constitutive accep­tance of alternative realities, thus contrasted both to the lost wholeness of the medieval Christian conception of world and to science’s dehumanized universe. Its appearance within European thought was believed to mark the hiatus of the modern era by distin­guishing the eras “Middle Ages” and “Renaissance.”
Because it paired world specifically with “view,” because, that is, it articulated the intertwining of object and subject with reference to the faculty of sight, the term Weltanschauung had an illustrious career in art history. While normative aesthetics took art’s task to be the imitation of reality, and therefore judged individual works against that single standard, the historical study of art, emerging as an academic sub­ject in the nineteenth century, was founded on the belief that different cultures repre­sent reality differently, and that apparently “unrealistic” styles are not to be judged as wrong but to be interpreted as realizations of different contexts. The elaboration of a value-neutral history of style, together with contemporary critical preferences for styl­istic uniqueness as the mark of genius, drew attention to the fact that the world, when visualized in art, was contingent on the particularities of person, place, and time. Weltanschauung, therefore, was both a consequence of art-historical consciousness and a felicitous motto for the discipline. It announces that art as evidence of the way persons and peoples saw the world ought to be foundational to the understanding of history: pictures are worldviews.
Perhaps the most pivotal use of the term is Erwin Panofsky’s in his 1927 essay “Per­spective as Symbolic Form.” Perspective, equated here with Weltanschauung, is both historical and ahistorical. On the one hand, contesting the view that linear perspec­tive as developed in Renaissance art is a categorically truer way of presenting the world, Panofsky asks of his historical material “not whether it has perspective, but which perspective it has.”16 Every artwork has its own perspective corresponding to the particular worldview of the larger culture. On the other hand, linear perspective, in its method of making world contingent on viewpoint, corresponds to the modem Weltanschauung in the more narrow sense, as a historically specific consciousness of positionality—what Nietzsche famously termed “perspectivism.”
Jan van Eyck’s Madonna of Chancellor Rolin of around 1435 is amenable to these terms (Figure 1). In its construction of deep space, conveyed by the receding lines of the tiled floor and by the river landscape stretching to the horizon, it locates a sacred scene—the apparition of the Virgin—in a world as if coextensive with our own. Indeed the movement into the picture exerts such a force, and yields so many delights, that the exchange displayed across the picture, between Rolin and the Virgin and Christ, seems eclipsed. The artist employs landscape to mark that exchange: a distant bridge carries Christ’s gesture of blessing over to Rolin’s praying hands. What Jacob Burckhardt termed the Renaissance discovery of the individual and the world finds its emblem here. The necessary and constitutive connection between viewer and viewed opens a chasm between “medieval man” and his faith. And a newly rehabilitated curiosity about this world,17 embodied, visually, in the turned figure in the middle ground shown beholding the landscape, replaces ascetic thought directed to an after­life. Secularization, the process of an increasing worldliness, thus seems the historical condition of the worldview; and the artist Jan van Eyck, probably portrayed as the red- turbaned man standing beside the surrogate viewer, offers his created reality as alterna­tive to God’s.
Historians today distrust such apparent modernity. They push van Eyck’s picture back into a remoter age, arguing that its mundane world is brimming with symbols, like the Master of Flemalle’s famous background fire-screen, which functions visually as the Virgin’s halo.18 They claim that, in the medieval worldview, reality was consti­tuted by signs pointing beyond themselves to God.19 And they maintain that the hid­denness of these signs in van Eyck indicates not his secular vision but the invisibility of faith to our secular worldview. How then are we modems expected to see that invis­ible border between us and the past? Are there pictures of the threshold to an alterna­tive historical reality?
Daniel Boorstin’s best-selling history, The Discoverers, reproduces a line drawing on its cover, described as an “early 16th century woodcut.”20 In this image, a kneeling

  Figure 1. Jan van Eyck, Madonna of Chancellor Nicolas Rolin, ca. 1435. Louvre, Paris.

pilgrim gingerly pokes his head, hand, and walking staff through a scrim of stars, to peer from one reality into a host of others. He leaves behind a local Lebenswelt of churches, forests, and fields, where the stars are fixed to their spheres, and sun and moon, outfitted with faces, betray an anthropomorphic, pre-Copernican cosmology. The wanderer’s head has just breached the boundary of this reality, enabling him to wonder at an infinite succession of worlds arranged as circles placed crosswise to the outline of his sphere. One heavenly body looks mechanical, as if made by Descartes’s watchmaker God. What better way to illustrate the historical passage of man, the dis­coverer, from the closed world of the Middle Ages to the open universe of modernity! While drawn in a quaint medieval style, the woodcut seems to foresee the future.
Yet this quaintness spells trouble. Certain areas of foliage look more William Morris than Dürer; certain hybrids, hard to imagine as sixteenth-century, like the machine- tooled cosmos beside the Mother Goose moon: these indicate a medievalizing print. Indeed, it is an illustration from a popular book on meteorology by Camille Flammar- ion, published in Paris in 1888.21 Boorstin’s publishers cropped and colored it but forgot to check the source. One might lament the demise of so perfect a picture of breached worldviews. If Boorstin’s cover shows the picture one might want, its error raises the question: Can such a picture exist?
Martin Heidegger gave one answer in a lecture delivered in 1938 and published under the title “Die Zeit des Weltbildes.”22 According to Heidegger, the symptoms of the modern age are the hegemony of science, the aesthetization of art as object of experience, the definition of human activity as “culture,” and the desacralization of the world. And all these are reduced to the process by which the modem subject constitutes itself as subject by becoming the viewer of a world laid out before it as in a picture. The world picture, in Heidegger’s terms, is not a picture of the world but the world as picture. And the “time of the world picture” is the modern era. The argument reiterates the philosophy of Weltanschauung, even as its ideological tenor has become more crudely antimodernist. Heidegger laments both the loss of human grounding through perspectivism’s abstraction and the functionalization of the world through technology. Nonetheless, his argument is useful, for it states in categorical terms that there can be no transition from medieval to modern world pictures. For according to Heidegger, people in the Middle Ages did not understand the world as a picture, because for them the world, as created by God, places the individual not before it, as its viewer, and therefore as possessor of Weltanschauung, but only somewhere within it, as a mere created thing that will be viewed and judged only by an omnivoyant, omnipresent God. I shall attempt to take up Heidegger’s challenge by considering some images from around 1500 in which medieval and modern world pictures seem to overlap as in a half-legible palimpsest.
Jheronimus Anthoniszoon van Aken (d. 1516), who signed his works “Hieronymus Bosch,” is an art-historical monster. Called in his century “the inventor of devils,” the painter of freaks, chimeras, and things, in Lodovico Guicciardini’s 1567 account, “fan- tastiques, & bizares,”23 Bosch is himself the great unknown of the Northern tradition, the artist who did not, and still does not, seem to fit. Unforeseeable from what came before him, he remains largely un-understood. He is the still-savage major master of the European tradition. His first public defender, the Spaniard Don Felipe de Guevara, reports in 1560 that the people saw Bosch’s pictures “as a monstrosity, as something outside the rules of what is taken to be natural.”24 The impossible, in Greek adynaton, is contingency’s outer limit, and it was there that Bosch was felt to press. Guevara, writing for a courtly audience around 1560, admitted that the artist “painted strange things, but only because he set his theme in Hell, for which, as he wanted to represent devils, he devised compositions of unusual things.” While hoffähig as portraitist of demons, Bosch occasioned monstrous interpretations. His most famous masterpiece, the triptych sometimes called the Garden of Earthly Delights, has been taken to repre­sent, variously, the world before the Flood, life in Eden, the apotheosis of sin, a utopia of a never-fallen humanity, a satanic comedy, a satire on vanity by a Northern Savo­narola, a bourgeois parody of courtly love, and a sermon on fantasy. One historian, Wilhelm Fraenger, took Bosch’s alterity at face value and read the Garden as an actual altarpiece to a non-Christian god.25 Erwin Panofsky, playing it safe, broke off his mon­umental account of early Netherlandish painting before discussing Bosch with the learned disclaimer, “This, too high for my wit, / I prefer to omit”26—a version, to be sure, of Lévi-Strauss’s “Alas! too savage!”
Indeed beyond matters of local interpretation, there is a savagery in Bosch that affects us still today, as the assembled subaltern others of medieval society—the beggars, thieves, witches, and heretics; the quacks and magicians; the Jews, Mosl­ems, and blacks—are all gathered as in some curiosity cabinet of cruelty, there to be vilified, tortured, and damned. In Bosch, Christian culture reveals its barbarism by self- righteously punishing all realities alternative to its own. Collector of stigmatized others, Bosch is himself the quintessential alternative reality, medieval narrow-mindedness on the rampage against competing worldviews. And indeed as soon as one goes to interpret him, his alterity challenges and seduces. To some scholars his art seems encrypted, and demands a specific key, which is often sought in codes he condemns, such as those of alchemy.27 To others, he pictures the historical loss of any such key.28 Against the medieval Christian symbolic code, it is argued, Bosch stages the move­ment to modem semantic uncertainty, in which what something is stands in an un­stable, contingent relation to what it means. I shall try to circumvent questions of meaning by concentrating on issues of place and placement. I shall first locate and describe Bosch’s pictures of world. Then I shall attempt to place his pictures in the world. Understood as world pictures, Bosch’s paintings will help situate the history of knowledge (Feuerbach’s Wissenschaft) within a history of the emergence of that strange object, art.
The Spanish cleric and erudite Fray Joseph de Siguen^a, in his prose masterpiece The History of the Order of St. Jerome (1605), defended Bosch against those who term his paintings “non-sense” (disparates) and “call him unjustly a heretic.”29 Disparates is a hard word to gloss. Derived from the Latin disparare (“to separate”) and related to the English “disparate,” it came to denote, within Spanish art theory of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, all that is physically monstrous and deformed, intellectually absurd, aesthetically incongruous, or morally objectionable. Originally a term of dis­paragement, it soon became a descriptive category naming a specific, popular mode of art, literature, and drama that aimed at grotesque and playfully arbitrary forms: in poetry, for example, nonsense verse; in theater, the farce-intermezzo (entremés)-, and in painting, drolleries or capriccios in the Boschian manner.30 For such writers as Lope de Vega, Manuel de Melo, and Francesco Quevado, Bosch’s pictures defined what dis­parates meant. This makes it difficult, in turn, to understand Bosch through this term, except by noting that, applied to his art, it can both describe and disparage, naming either what Bosch’s pictures depict, or what they themselves are. A Spanish satirist in 1600 could vilify his competitors by comparing their farces (or persons) to the dis­parates of Bosch, thereby deliberately confusing satire with satirist.
The ambivalence of “non-sense”—whether it describes Bosch’s art or what it depicts—applies also to the more serious accusation dismissed by Siguen^a, that the artist was a heretic. We encounter the notion again in a venomous tract from 1635 attacking Bosch’s most famous literary heir, Quevado. In the Tribunal de la justa venganza, Quevado appears in league with Bosch, the “ataista.”31 It is possible that seventeenth- century observers in Spain, like some historians in our time, regarded Bosch’s various images of apostasy as themselves apostate images; their view might also have been strengthened during the Thirty Years’ War, when Bosch’s native Low Countries were aligned, as Protestant, against Catholic Spain.32 Yet the charge of unbelief was at least as slippery in 1635 as it is today for Fraenger’s revisionist account. Quevado himself had broached the question in his El alguacil endemoniado (1607). Bosch appears as a visitor to hell, who, when asked why he paints his demons so absurdly, answers: “Because I never believed the devils were real.” Scholars of Bosch remain uncertain about the artist’s faith: whether his monsters are devils or nonsense, and whether, therefore, his disparates travesty false religion or reveal religion itself to be a travesty.
Siguena’s answer is religiously orthodox and seriously intended. Even his strangest pictures—which Siguenga calls “macaronic,” meaning a jumbling of high and low— express the verdict of the prophets on the vanity of the world: “The idea and the art of this manner are based on Isaiah 40:6, where the messenger of God says, ‘All flesh is grass.’ ” Siguenfa understands Bosch within the original Christian idea of contin­gency. Borrowing from Latinized Aristotelian logic, Christian theologians of the Mid­dle Ages coined the term contingentia to express the ontological constitution of the world as that which was created out of nothing, is sustained only through divine Will, and shall pass away. The world, by this definition, is not necessary; it could just as well not have been, or been otherwise, and it owes its existence to God’s unconditional being.3’ As I shall suggest, Bosch pictures world in its constitution as that which could be otherwise, and so in order to teach his viewer a proper contempt for this world.
The so-called Hay Wain perfectly expresses Bosch’s world view (Figure 2). Dating to

Figure 2. Hieronymus Bosch, The Hay Wain, open state, ca. 1500-1505, panel painting. Prado, Madrid. Photograph courtesy Giraudon.
about 1500, this signed triptych was described by sixteenth-century sources, and exists today in two copies, both of them inferior and in poor condition, in the Prado and the Escorial. Already Siguena names the hay at the picture’s center as the “grass” referred to in Isaiah. All surrounding matter, from the vagabond on the triptych’s outer wings to the interior’s spectacles of Paradise, earth, and hell, would thus embellish the cen­tral figure of the vanity of the world. World appears here in multiple, overlapping models—what Michel de Certeau, with reference to Bosch, termed “spatial polyglo- tism.”34 It is present as the subject matter, the hay, which is both a biblical and a ver­nacular proverbial emblem of world as contingent. Hay fills the pouches of the folk depicted, or sticks to their fingers as their attachment to the world. Bundled on the wagon, it looks like a misshapen globe, or better, like the terrestrial lower half of the spherical “world,” such as we see on the outer shutters of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights
(Figure 3). Set against a landscape, the lovers on top of the hay would thus sit on what would be, according to this geographical model, the inhabitable surface of the earth. The hay thereby becomes an allegorical world within the world. Several early compositions after the Hay Wain make this valency more apparent. In tapestries in the Royal Palace in Madrid and in the Escorial, the whole scene of the original triptych’s central panel is reproduced within a circle that, fitted at the upper right with a cross

Figure 3. Hieronymus Bosch, , closed state, ca. 1510, panel painting. Prado, Madrid.

and surrounded at the base by sea monsters and waves, reads like a giant orb or Reich- sapfel floating on the deep.35 Bosch elsewhere superimposes the outlines of the world’s orb over an ordinary scene, as in the panel sometimes called the Stone Operation,36 In this panel, now in the Prado, the round format of the image itself, together with the curving border between middle and background that, located halfway up the roundel,

could double as the equator of a transparent globe, extend the picture’s message of folly to the world as a “whole,” represented both as mundane landscape and as out­lined globe. The picture thus becomes a macaronic world map.
In the Hay Wain, world is most of all present as the triptych’s depiction of land­scape. Bosch constructs the first genuine Weltlandschafth in Western painting. The bird’s-eye view unfolds sideways to Paradise and hell, and outward into space, toward infinity at the horizon. Narrow at the sides but expansive to the distance, Bosch imag­ines a world limited in time but infinite in space. Placing the picture’s spectator simul­taneously as a pawn in salvation history and as the privileged viewer of an endless universe, Bosch’s world picture is both medieval and modern, closed and open, alle­gory and map.
Bosch offers us a beautiful world view only to anathematize that world as sin. The principle vice is avarice, defined as any positive relation to the world. All other sins— gluttony, anger, lust, etc.—crowd round as versions of love of the world.58 Bosch depicts sin both by showing sinners and by telling sin’s story: fall of the rebel angels and man, exile from Paradise, profusion of sin, and final punishment. World history processes as a false triumph from bad to worse. Bosch shows ephemerality by endowing it with a rigid, necessary structure. Sin might appear chaotic, as bodies grasping helter- skelter at the hay, yet the hay is resolutely at the picture’s center. It founds a symmetry that endows the whole with the character of a cosmic diagram. Hell is the negative of Paradise, its black towers being a ruined version of Paradise’s curious rocks. And these antitheses surround a composition whose center is maintained both by the hay wagon and by Christ, who, displaying his wounds, appears above a rainbow in the clouds.
Of course, Christ, the hay, and the viewer are only presently aligned. Bosch reminds us of the imminence of this skewing, this future structural dissolution, by suggesting the instantaneous “after” in details like the woman futilely erecting a ladder on the moving mass of hay, and the turbaned man with his already-toppled ladder about to be crushed by the wagon’s wheels. In that very next moment, when the hay passes to the right, drawing with it the viewer’s gaze, Christ will remain behind at the center now abandoned by the world. True, one might imagine that Christ, peering down from heaven, will keep pace with our movements, as do the sun and moon as we walk the earth, or that the cloud through which Christ peers will cling to the hay, as the perpet­ual promise of salvation. Such trust in permanence, however, is at odds with the pic­ture’s overall message of vanity. It represents that forgetfulness of time, death, and punishment that all actors exemplify and that stands condensed in the motif of the lovers in the verweile-doch of lust.
The picture’s center is but a momentary alignment of Christ, the world, and the viewer. From any other vantage point in time and space, this relation will be skewed, indeed as it is for all the depicted figures in their rage for the world as center. While the panel’s rigid alignment gives the whole the appearance of a necessary structure, it announces that this structure is contingent on the beholding subject. The picture asks the viewer to render a decision on the world here and now. And within the picture’s logic, the here and now is the hay itself. It is that shapeless, blank, and mobile mass— equivalent to world—that constitutes the picture’s center and principle object, and that appears venerated like a god.
The reference to idolatry—as a general fetishism of things—raises questions about the form and function of Bosch’s triptych. We do not know the Hay Wain’s original context, whether it was intended as an altarpiece for a Christian altar or an artwork for a secular collection. We know it stood in the church of the royal palace and monastery at El Escorial in the eighteenth century, but it arrived there via secular art collections. Yet whether for a church or Kunstkammer, the Hay Wain’s triptych format, its symmet­rical composition, and even its temporal framework, which places “before” to the left and “after” to the right, derives from altarpieces. More specifically, the scheme whereby side panels representing Paradise and hell flank a central scene of impending damnation recalls the format of Last Judgment altarpieces, which Bosch himself fash­ioned in numerous versions, including one very large ensemble commissioned by Philip the Fair in 1504 and now lost, but believed to be close to an extant triptych in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.’9
The retable altarpiece is the model for the Hay Wain’s geometry and for its assur­ance that contingency is framed in a necessary order. In church space this order would extend out from the altarpiece to the altar before it, and beyond that, to a world thought to be oriented around church and altar. For an altar is a sacred place, elevated above ordinary locations not only through the sacrament performed on it, but also through special rites of consecration, which entombed in the altar certain sacred things: martyr’s relics, consecrated eucharistic hosts, incense kernels burned during the episcopal rite of the altar’s consecration, and documents guaranteeing the authenticity of all these.40 Endowed with praesentia, the altar oriented space around itself as around an absolute center. It directed gazes eastward toward Jerusalem as well as, invariably, toward the miracle performed at it, when the elements of bread and wine were, in Aquinas’s term, “transubstantiated” into Christ’s real flesh and blood through the agency of the priest. In the late Middle Ages, this miracle became, for the laity, above all a visual spectacle, in which the consecrated host was elevated and placed in special framing tabernacles for prolonged ostentation. The laity received the host in an ocular communion, a manducatio per visum, almost as efficacious as gustation proper.41 Image ensembles erected behind the altar table reiterated in their centralized plan the struc­tured attention of salvific seeing. They functioned variously to glorify, explain, or even bring intercession to the greater spectacle enacted before them, a spectacle that kept all eyes fixed on Christ present, again in scholastic terms, as the substance of the acci­dent of the bread. Bosch himself visualized this mystery in a scene of the Mass of St. Gregory that adorns the outer panels of his Epiphany altarpiece, now in the Prado in Madrid.42 In the Hay Wain, in a gesture that has neither precedent or sequel, the cen­ter of this absolute geography is occupied by hay, by the emblem, indeed, of accident without substance.
Bosch’s Hay Wain probably did not originally stand behind an altar. Perhaps it served as a devotional aid in a place of private worship, such as a privatorium. More likely, however, it was, from the start, a precious work of art within a princely or patri­cian collection. There it might have functioned to admonish against the enchant­ment of earthly treasures like itself. The curiosity served by the Renaissance Kunst' und Wunderkammer would be repositioned within the medieval catalogue of the vices. A secular context, moreover, would explain the hay’s valence as idol. Replacing the cult object at the center of the Christian retable with an image of contingency, the Hay Wain would make a moral point about its very status as a worldly thing, and even about the historical passage from sacred to profane that it, as a hybrid art altarpiece, negotiated. Bosch carries over into the new, secular space of art the absolute geogra­phy of the sacred, even if only as a ghostly frame. In this space, beginning and end, good and evil, truth and falsehood have fixed and necessary places, structured loca­tions that, in Bosch, are consubstantial with the painted panel itself in its material geometry.
Bosch’s portrait of the world’s sphere fits snugly in place on the outer panels of the Garden of Earthly Delights (Figure 3). The earth’s geography conforms perfectly to the picture’s geometry because earth was made by God, who appears in the upper left in the position of a divine geometer. The Psalmist’s words inscribed at the panels’ tops reminds us of this ontological dependency, this relation between a necessary agent and a created, and thus contingent, thing: “For He spoke, and it was; He commanded, and it stood.” This providential geography recalls medieval world maps. In the Ebstorf mappamundi, dating from around 1235 and destroyed in 1943, geographic and geomet­ric centers—the navel of the world and of the midpoint of the map—converge on Je­rusalem and on Christ, shown resurrected from his grave.43 Beginning in the fourth century and culminating in the crusaders’ rallying cry “ad sepulchrum Domini," Jesus’ empty tomb constituted the place of places around which the world organized itself as around an absolute center. In the Ebstorf example, the world is circumscribed by Christ’s body: his head appears in the far east, at Paradise, while his feet and hands mark the points west, north, and south.
According to Horst Appuhn, the map originally served as an Easter Tapestry for the ground before the altar of the nun’s choir of the Ebstorf cloister.44 This further “ori­ents” things, for the map itself would face east, with the altar. The Hereford Map of around 1290 similarly inscribes contingent space into the necessary space of God.45 According to an eighteenth-century source, the map once stood at the central of a triptych backing the Hereford cathedral’s high altar. Flanked by shutters depicting (at the left) the annunciating angel Gabriel and (to the right) the Virgin, the map situ­ated God’s historical and liturgical entrance in the world, as Christ’s incarnation through Mary and as his presence in altar’s rite. Read as a version of a mappamundi, Bosch’s Garden superimposes on absolute geography a different space. The landscape of the newly created earth, shown as a disk floating on the waters of the deep, recedes into depth as if observed by a human eye in positional space.46 Bosch brings together in a single picture two distinct models of world: one contingent on God, the other contingent on viewpoint.
It would be the contingency of perspective that, henceforth, defines the image for European painting until this century. In it became apparent what Immanuel Kant was to state near the opening of the Critique of Pure Reason: “It is, therefore, solely from a human standpoint that we can speak of space.” Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s world- scapes, made in dialogue with Bosch’s, already bear eloquent witness to this troubled process. In the Vienna Carrying of the Cross, dated 1564, the single, framed, rectangu­lar panel, made to be experienced aesthetically in the Kunstkammer, has severed its ties to church space
(Figure 4). Bruegel positions the viewer before a vast prospect of the mundane world, and he dramatizes this vertiginous expansion by means of people rushing toward Golgotha in the distance. Christ, the picture’s subject, is overlooked by all except the holy figures mourning in the foreground. Bruegel personifies humanity’s indifference toward Christ in the figure of Simon of Cyrene at the lower left. Accord­ing to the Gospel, soldiers compelled the Cyrenian to bear Christ’s cross (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21); in Bruegel, Simon appears held back by his wife, who, wearing a rosary, stands for false, outer piety. While the multitude march forward with their backs to Christ, Simon, the one called to carry Christ’s burden, draws back in the viewer’s direction. Christ thus kneels between two immense indifferences, one near the pic­ture’s vanishing point, in that empty circle of gawking people on the horizon, the other near the viewpoint, where the beholder’s faith is tested. Although tiny in the landscape, Christ appears at the exact center of the panel, and from there looks directly back at us. This vestige of absolute space, of an order located in places them­selves (here the painted mark) rather than in positions from which they are observed, is a legacy of Bosch. It appears most momentously in one of Bosch’s surviving retable altarpieces.
If measured by its influence, the Temptation of St. Anthony, now in Lisbon, and dated to around 1510-15, is Bosch’s most important work (Figure 5). More than twenty copies of it exist, and it inspired a huge number of imitations until well into the seven­teenth century.47 Bosch himself made several versions of the theme. Siguenfa, who was close to the Spanish court that zealously collected Bosch, reports that “this paint­ing is seen often; one is in the chapter house of the Order of St. Jerome; another in the cell of the prior; two in the gallery of the Infanta; some in my cell, which I often read

Figure 4- Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Christ Carrying the Cross, 1564. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Photograph courtesy Bildarchiv Foto Marburg.

and immerse myself in.”481 would like to have seen Siguenfa’s cell, where Bosch’s pic- tures proliferated like the demons they depict. The pious brother seems to have used them for his religious devotions, although by his time the vast majority of Boschian St. Anthony panels were in secular art collections. Originally, though, the Lisbon panels almost certainly functioned as an altarpiece. Contemporary documents inform us that in 1490 Bosch painted the “outer wings” of a retable in the chapel of the Illustre Lieve- Vrouwe Broederschap in the Cathedral of St. John in s’Hertogenbosch; and he seems also to have executed altarpiece wings for the cathedral’s High Altar, as well as for an altar dedicated to St. Michael.49 And we know that altars dedicated to St. Anthony had currency during this period: the retable for the hospital of the Order of St. Anthony in Isenheim, with its sculpted shrine from around 1490 by Nikolas Hagenower and later wings by a painter called Griinewald, is one famous example.
Yet as an altarpiece, Bosch’s triptych is certainly unique. For one thing, winged reta- bles ordinarily enclosed a cult image in their shrine, like Hagenower’s enthroned St. Anthony, which claimed to make present the power of the saint himself. Or the cen­tral image narrated a significant event: a moment in Heilsgeschichte or a martyr’s death. Bosch’s triptych offers no proper cult image, and the specific stories from Anthony’s

Figure 5. Hieronymus Bosch, St. Anthony, open state, 1510-1515. National Museum, Lisbon. Photograph courtesy Giraudon.
life, as told in such popular, late medieval hagiographies,50 are exiled to the wings: Anthony’s return to his cave, his temptation by the beautiful queen, etc. The central panel extracts the saint from the chain of necessary events and represents him in general attitude of devotion. Bosch’s badly preserved Hermit Saints Triptych, now in the Doge’s Palace in Venice, extends this strategy through all three panels.51 Saints Anthony, Jerome, and Giles appear there not as objects of devotion but as subjects in devotion. Neither cultic presences nor actors within significant events, they offer, through their inward attitude, a model of subjective piety.
Siguemja, always Bosch’s best reader, wrote that whereas most artists “paint man as he looks from outside, this artist has the courage to paint him as he is inwardly.”52 This focus on inwardness, congenial to the Counter-Reformation spirituality of Siguenga and of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo in El Escorial, was also in tune with lay piety in Bosch’s time, influenced as it was by the devotio modema.1' But what does Bosch’s inner man look like?
In the Lisbon triptych, we must work to find this inner man, for he is all but lost in the hellish spectacle all around. According to tradition, the temptation of St. Anthony was this kind of spectacle.54 It was a chaos of phantasms conjured by the devil to tempt and terrify the pious man. At once inner and outer, these abject crea­tures not only assailed the person but were also of the person. In devotional literature through the seventeenth-century, they were calls for both a contemptus mundi and a self-contempt, being at once demonic enticements and projective fantasies, personi­fied sin and sinning person. Describing Bosch’s St. Anthony, Siguena refers with awe to the maker of these monstrosities:

We see .. . the unbounded fantasies and monstrosities that the enemy devises in order to confuse his imperturbable soul and distract his fervent love: to this end he conjures up living beings, wild animals, chimeras, monsters, fire, death, roar­ing, threats, vipers, lions, dragons and fearful birds of all kinds, so that one asks in astonishment how it was possible for him to give shape to all his ideas.55
The “he” here is ambiguous, referring first to the devil, who conjures demons to cor­rupt the hermit-saint, but then to Bosch, who pictures demons to edify the viewer. This prefigures the uncertainty in the Bosch literature about artist’s relation to his work: whether Bosch vilifies apostasy or is himself apostate, whether his Garden is a paradise or a hell, whether he believes or parodies belief. Bosch’s pictorial style makes such distinctions unclear.56 Refusing to model things in their distinct materiality, blur­ring the boundaries between mineral, vegetable, animal, human, and spirit and all into erratic plays of paint, Bosch puts his viewers in an uncertain—one wants to say “contingent”—relation to everything they see.
In 1604, Carel van Mander wrote that Bosch distinguished himself by his swift, energetic technique, executing his figures in one go.5' In contrast to the meticulous layering of translucent glazes so admired in other Netherlandish painters, in which the artist’s hand is wholly effaced, Bosch’s pictures display the temporality of their making. Their wild outlines, flickering highlights, and textured surfaces announce that they were created as an act of will. And the many pentimenti left visible testify that what is, in Bosch, could indeed have been otherwise. Bosch’s spontaneous forms share features with those aleatory treasures of the Kunstkammer, in which natural objects are worked to seem other than they are: in the background of the left inner panel, Bosch turns a mound of earth into a man’s buttocks by a few stokes of the brush.
Devilry is an exercise in projective imagination. In the central panel’s foreground, Bosch harnesses a fish like a jousting horse. Spatially estranged, the armor also reads as a ship’s rigging, which, in turn, turns the fish into a decorative ship’s prow, and so forth. What results is the unique creation, the radical singularity that, having no category, would be classed in the KunsU und Wunderkammer as “error,” there to be demonized as evidence of sin, or celebrated as exemplar of fancy, or (as in Lorraine Daston’s 1991 account) naturalized as fact, or indeed all simultaneously, in that ambivalence toward the world’s “curiosities” that Bosch presages for the early modem period.58
In Bosch, a palpable sense of contingency extends beyond his individual creatures to the spatial structure of his scenes. Again contrasting to Netherlandish painting before him, Bosch refuses to obey the rules of linear perspective. He builds eccentric architectures that recede chaotically toward an undeterminable distance. Yet even as he refuses the systematic space of perspective, and even as he strews his figures like random blots on the picture surface,59 he also creates, indeed for the first time in West­ern art, a coherent, infinite worldscape. And this worldscape, in turn, is subordinated to framing structures, to geometries and necessary placements that diagram an abso­lute—indeed a non-perspectival—point of view. Bosch’s curious penchant for the roundel and the rota, and for eccentric formats that baffle any sense of the image as Albertian open window, work to place the world as it is experienced contingently from within into a fixed and necessary framework opposed from without.
The point about Bosch’s St. Anthony is that, as Christian exemplar, Anthony is able to see through the illusions assembled around him, to penetrate beyond the world’s accidents to the necessary substance itself. In the central panel of the Lisbon triptych, the saint kneels in prayer before a destroyed chapel. His right hand, doubled by the pointing hand of Christ, directs our gaze toward the cross on the altar. This cru­cifix, one presumes, both symbolizes Christ’s presence in the Mass (again, as substance of the accidents of the bread) and represents an ordinary corpus Christi as was usual (and, after Trent, required) for altars. Itself most probably a working altarpiece, Bosch’s triptych tells its viewers to look at Christ. In the ritual context of the altar, this means beholding Christ in the elevatio. Yet by doubling the scene before the altar, by making altar and altarpiece the subject of an altarpiece, Bosch places Christ in a hall of mirrors. This the viewer must traverse by way of the painting’s great temptation.
St. Anthony’s temptation consists of a host of parodies. Traditional subjects of reli­gious art and drama appear as if in devilish caricatures: on the far right of the central panel, for example, the scaly tailed tree-woman mounted backward on a giant rat and bearing a swaddled infant, together with the poor, bearded man wearing a blue hat behind, suggest Mary, Christ, and Joseph in their flight into Egypt, while the surround­ing three figures hint at images of the Magi.60 Sacred service appears travestied by devils: just below and to the right of Anthony, three demons in the shape of clerics (a priest and two monks) appear to read prayers from a breviary. And the Eucharistic sacrament is mimicked in a Black Mass performed just behind Anthony’s back.61 An egg born aloft by a frog stands for the elevated Host.
Even the tiny crucifix in the chapel—that last vestige of visual truth and reference of both Anthony’s and Christ’s deictic gestures—has its own anti-image within the triptych. Just to the right of the crucifix and exactly aligned with it, the ruined column displays, as though in a fresco decoration or in polychromed low-relief, the Golden Calf in a scene of its adoration by idolatrous Israelites. Bosch includes this mise en abyme, this painting within a painting, as if it were itself a remnant of an idolatrous culture: just below the picture of the Adoration of the Golden Calf, another ostensible fresco, or relief, exhibits a monkey-demon (or monkey-demon statue) enthroned on a drum and approached by suppliants bearing gifts. And below this is another scene, almost certainly of two Israelites with grapes from the valley of Eschol, and suggestive, perhaps, of a worldly abundance that diverts man from God.62 Within the triptych’s larger picture, then, the Christian chapel would seem to occupy the ruins of an ancient pagan (or, more likely, Jewish) temple, even as it is now threatened by a reoccupation by modern demons and idolaters—indeed specifically by Islam, hinted at in the cres­cent moon on a flag in the left inner shutter.
Bosch’s painting of a painting of the Golden Calf, placed beside an altarpiece in Bosch’s altarpiece, asks tough questions about the role of images in Christian devotion. The Calf, and with it all the other temptations, enclose the saint like a ruined, eternal envelope, or like the shattered crystal orb of the world. And at the core of Bosch’s picture, as the geometric center of his painted panel, the saint looks directly out at us. His eye literally places the contingency of the world into a necessary framework.
Bosch was a master of pictures that see us. His early panel of the Seven Deadly Sins monumentalizes this outward gaze (Figure 6). From Siguen^a’s account, we know that the panel once hung in the Escorial, in the bedroom of Philip II,63 the inner windows of which opened, like the fenestration of a private chapel, to San Lorenzo’s great domed church. Bosch’s roundel takes the form of a giant eye that warns, in the inscrip­tion around the pupil, “Beware, beware, God sees.” At the pupil’s center, as either the image in the eye, or a reflected image of that which the eye sees, stands Christ resur­rected from his grave and displaying his wounds. The image recalls the Holy Sepulchre at the world’s navel, Jerusalem, in the Ebstorf mappamundi, here translated into a veristic image that can capture Christ’s reflection as it is cast on the shiny stone of his tomb. Moreover, by turning his painting into an eye, Bosch reverses our usual orienta­tion to images as active viewers to objects passively seen. He makes his work return our glance, indeed hold us in its gaze as we are revealed in our various sins. Read within the figure of the eye, the seven little scenes—representing the sins of anger, vanity, lust, lethargy, gluttony, avarice, and envy—appear as reflections on the eye’s white. These scenes, sometimes cited as the first genre paintings of the Netherlandish tradition, together constitute a worldscape of a kind, one wrapped around itself, like the world’s orb turned inside out and upside down. The picture, it is implied, visualizes sin as the world-upside-down, here as contingent images on the periphery of God’s all- seeing eye. His is a world picture where the Weltanschauung is God’s.
In the Lisbon St. Anthony, Bosch reduces this all-seeing gaze to one spot of paint at the picture’s center, yet with it he announces the continued necessity of the center. Centers, as the Golden Calf attests, can be dangerous things, tempting the eye to an interest in the things of the world. Bosch justifies his picture by establishing at its mid­point not an object but a subject, not a thing or curiosity seen but a seer who views us as a curiosity: the inner person with eyes fixed on necessary things. Anthony’s outward glaze, which, like the giant eye in the Prado Seven Deadly Sins, interpellates and judges

Figure 6. Hieronymus Bosch, Seven Deadly Sins and Four Last Things, ca. 1495. Prado, Madrid. Photograph courtesy Giraudon.
us, may stand surrounded by images of our temptations and our misdeeds. Yet painting is not only that wondrous distraction but retains at its geometric center the truth of a holy face.
As fate would have it, the center did not hold. Bosch’s imitators ignored the underly­ing centers, symmetries, and diagrams that locate contingency within a necessary order. Boschian space becomes a surface strewn with clever inventions: demons, arabesques, and saints, all delectable in their variety.64 Where Bosch labeled the world’s contingency as a temptation around a centered inner self, his future followers and fans took the bait and collected Bosch himself as a “curiosity.” Their savagery for­gotten, his paintings were installed in the space of the art collection. There they would have hung like catalogues of the very exotica that surrounded them: the jokes of nature, the images made by chance, the ethnographic souvenirs, the moralizing prints and pagan gemstones, and the ingenious instruments of art, knowledge, and hygiene. From the diabolical, indecipherable, savage unknown was born the quintes­sential alternative reality: the modern work of art.
In Bosch, demons remain demons, however obscure their message might be. Only in his reception do they become playacted savages and carnival props. Consider the savages of Bosch’s great modernizer, Pieter Bruegel. In his one extant woodcut, dated 1566, Bruegel shows a king and a wildman on a village street (Figure 7). The ruler, it seems, encounters ruleless natural man. Yet the longer we look, the more artificial this difference appears. The wildman’s body seems covered by fur, yet the regularized tufts, as well as the gap between these and the wildman’s hands and feet, suggest a fur gar­ment. And the wild eyes that peer forth from a shock of hair become, on inspection, eyes of a mask. The king, too, is a masquerade. He is a peasant whose crude arti­fice Bruegel marks by shading the line between face and beard, and by balancing the crown like a pot on top of a fur cap. Once recognized for what it is—mere rustic enter­tainment—everything falls in place. The woman to the right is faceless because she too wears a mask; and the crowd in the window locates the play in the street, before a village tavern or brothel. Indeed the scene shows an episode from the popular Flemish
Figure 7. Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Masquerade of Ourson and Valentin, 1566, Woodcut on paper.
play “Ourson and Valentine,” in which twins, divided at birth, meet again as knight and wildman.
Bruegel’s woodcut exposes the peasants’ play. What we took to be natural man was merely a local rustic in carnival clothes. And what therefore seemed like crudeness on Bruegel’s part—the unadept treatment of fur, eyes, and crown—turns out to be peas­ant artifice. This placement of “wildman” in quotes would have been unthinkable in Bosch, who appropriated popular symbolism without ever marking it as popular, which is to say, as other than his own. Bruegel unmasks the wildman by exposing the seams of his outfit, suggesting that savagery is a myth, and that Bruegel’s art itself only seems strange, foreign, and exotic.
It may be extravagant to discern in a printed line the burden of modernity. The vis­ible gap, in Bruegel’s woodcut, between face and mask, which levels wildman and king to rustic players, and declares their art, and indeed culture itself, to be contingent, might simply be a consequence of the graphic mark itself. It might be argued that woodcuts were incapable of achieving, through their heavy lines, the finish demanded for Bruegel’s legendary “realism,” hence the unique status of this print within the artist’s oeuvre. Yet it is precisely realism, as the figure of a rejection of artifice,65 that demands marks to place nature and natural language in quotations.
At 1572, Domenicus Lampsonius, Netherlandish painting’s first panegyrist, called Bruegel “this new Jeroon Bos.”66 And Van Mander named Bruegel as the greatest of the sixteenth-century Boschiads—those generally nameless epigones who satisfied the public demand for aestheticized devilry, or disparates, during the half century between Bosch’s death in 1516 and the Netherlands Iconoclasm of 1566. However, no artist makes Bosch seem more historically remote, and more different from ourselves, than does Bruegel. In Bruegel the devil becomes situated, as the specificity of an artifice or a symbolism that can be viewed with wonder from without, while at the same time evil—as the cruelties of war, punishment, and indifference—derives now relentlessly from the notion “man.” The telltale lines in the Masquerade woodcut that locate wild­ness in the practices and beliefs particular to one culture, are unthinkable in Bosch perhaps because he belonged fully to the culture that Bruegel marks as past or primi­tive, because (I am tempted to say) Bosch still believed in the monsters he painted. The world is contingent in relation to a faith that is not. St. Anthony occupies the absolute center of the painting because the devils around him are not advocates of competing faiths but instigators of apostasy. What Bruegel’s markings betray is the Copernican turn, occasioned by the European Reformation that intervened in the half century after Bosch’s death, and by the great wars of religion that raged in his own country, that belief itself is contingent on person, time, and place.
Van Mander reports that Bruegel, together with one of his patrons, the merchant Hans Franckert, “went out of town among the peasants ... to fun-fairs and weddings, dressed in peasants’ costume, and they gave presents just like the others, pretending to be family or acquaintances of the bride or the bridegroom.”67 The woodcut wildman has the quality of anthropological field notes. At the same time as the savage becomes familiarized as peasant artifice, the peasant himself becomes unknown. He is not nat- ural man, for he possesses art, and thus he appears to be already embarked on the pas­sage to Bruegel’s civility. Yet because his artifice is transparent, unlike Bruegel’s, he becomes the native of an alternative reality, with its artifice existing side by side with Bruegel’s. Staring out at us not as eyes but as mask, Bruegel’s quotidian other bespeaks the modern conditions. World pictures are contingent, not found but made. Hence­forth they will be plural.


1.   This essay began as a plenary lecture for the conference “Alternative Realities: Medieval and Renais­sance Inquires into the Nature of the World,” held at Barnard College in December 1994. My thanks go to Antonella Ansani and her colleagues for their kind invitation to speak. My use of the term “contingency” derives from the workshop “Poetik und Hermeneutik,” where I have twice been a grateful participant. Its 1994 meeting, organized by Gerhart von Graevenitz and Odo Marquard, was specifically devoted to “Kontingenz.” I also wish to thank Yve-Alain Bois, Susan Buenger, Nick Cahill, Cay Cashman, ]effrey Hamburger, Serafin Moralejo, and James Marrow for their advice and support. This essay is dedicated to Hans Blumenberg (1920-1996).
2.   Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, trans. John and Doreen Wrightman (New York, 1973), pp. 325-26.
3.   Lévi-Strauss, p. 335.
4.    Ibid., p. 333.
5.   Ibid., p. 344.
6.   Hans Blumenberg, “Kontingenz,” in Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3rd ed., ed. Kurt Galling (Tübingen, 1959), vol. 3, 1793-1794; Hans Poser, “Kontingenz I. Philosophisch,” Theologische Realenzyklopädie, ed. Gerhard Müller (Berlin, 1977), pp. 544-58; Erhard Scheibe, “Die Zunahme des Kontingenten in der Wissenschaft,” Neue Hefte für Philosophie 24-25 ( 1985): 5.
7.   Ludwig Feuerbach, Sämtliche Werke, ed. Friedrich Jodl (Stuttgart, 1960), p. 310; cited in Hans Blu- menberg, Lebenszeit und Weltzeit (Frankfurt, 1986), p. 54-
8.   Blumenberg, Lebenszeit, p. 55.
9.   Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (Leipzig, 1887).
10.   Husserl, “Kant und die Idee der Transzendentalphilosophie” (1924), ed. Rudolf Boehm, Husseriliana (Hague, 1924), vol. 7, p. 232; see Blumenberg, Lebenszeit, pp. 10-68.
11.   Pierre Bourdieu, Logic of Practice, trans. RichardNice (Stanford, 1990).
12.   Most powerfully Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford, 1991).
13.   Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Cambridge, 1989), p. 3.
14.   Blumenberg, “Wirklichkeitsbegriff und Möglichkeit des Romans,” Nachahmung und Illusion, ed. H. R. Jauß, Poetik und Hermeneutik, 1 (Munich, 1964), pp. 12-13.
15.   Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis, 1987), p. 111.
16.   Erwin Panofsky, Perspective as Symbolic Form, trans. Christopher Wood (New York, 1991), p. 41.
17.   On this process, see Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modem Age, trans. Robert M. Wallace (Cambridge, 1983), part 3.
18.   Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting (Cambridge, 1958), vol. 1, pp. 163-64-
19.   The classic formulation of this is Johan Huizinga’s 1919 The Autumn of the Middle Ages (trans. Rod­ney J. Paynton and Ulrich Mammitzsch [Chicago, 1996]).
20.   Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers (New York: Vintage Books and Random House, 1985).
21.   Camille Flammarion, L’Atmosphere: Météorologie populaire (Paris, 1888); the attribution is Fritz Krafft’s in “Die Stellung des Menschen im Universum,” Zur Entwicklung der Geographie, ed. Manfred Büttner (Paderborn, 1982), pp. 147-81.
22.   Martin Heidegger, “Die Zeit des Weltbildes” (1938), Holzwege (Frankfurt, 1950), pp. 73-110.
23.   Lodovico Guicciardini, Description de tous les Päis Bas (Antwerp, 1567), p. 132.
24.   Felipe de Guevara, Comentarios de la Pintura, ed. Antonio Ponz (Madrid, 1788), p. 44; excerpted and translated in Charles de Tolnay, Hieronymus Bosch (New York, 1965), p. 401.
25.   Wilhelm Fraenger, Hieronymus Bosch. Das tausendjährige Reich (Coburg, 1947).
26.   Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. 1, p. 358; quoting Adelphus Müelich, German translation of Ficino’s De vita triplica (Medicinarius [Strasbourg, 1505], fol. 174v).
27.   For example, Dirk Bax’s aptly titled Ontcijfering vanjeroen Bosch (The Hague, 1949).
28.   Albert Cook, Changing the Signs: The Fifteenth-Century Breakthrough (Lincoln, Nebr., 1985), pp. 81-120.
29.   Tercera parte de la Historia de la Orden de S. Geronimo (Madrid, 1605), p. 837; the whole passage on Bosch (in the original, pp. 837-41) is translated in De Tolnay, Bosch, pp. 401-04.
30.   Maxime Chevalair and Robert Jammes, “Supplément aux ‘Copias de disparates’,” Mélanges offert à Marcel Bataillon (Bordeau, 1962), pp. 358-71.
31.   See Helmut Heidenreich, “Hieronymus Bosch in some Literary Contexts,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 33 (1970): 171-99.
32.   X. de Salas, El Bosco en la literatura espanola (Barcelona, 1946).
33.   See references in note 6; also Franz Josef Wetz, “Kontingenz der Welt,” Kontingenz, ed. Gerhart von Graevenitz and Odo Marquard, Poetik und Hermeneutik, 17 (forthcoming).
34.   Michel de Certeau, The Mystic Fable, trans. Michael B. Smith (Chicago, 1992), p. 66.
35.    De Tolnay, Bosch, app. pl. 88.
36.    Ibid., cat. 1.
37.   The term appears first in Eberhard Freiherr von Bodenhausen, Gerard David und seine Schule (Munich, 1905), p. 209.
38.   Lotte Brand Philip, “The ‘Peddler’ by Hieronymus Bosch: A Study in Detection,” Nederlands Kunst- historischJaarboek 9 (1958): 1-81.
39.   Hans Belting, Die Erfindung des Gemäldes (Munich, 1994), p. 123.
40.   Joseph Braun, Das christliche Altar (Munich 1924), pp. 525-56.
41.   For a recent account, with an updated bibliography, see Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture, p. 65, passim.
42.    De Tolnay, Bosch, cat. 31.
43.   See, most recently, Ein Weltbild vor Columbus. Die Ebstorfer Weltkarte, ed. Hartmut Kugler (Wein- heim, 1991).
44.   “Datierung und Gebrauch der Ebstorfer Weltkarte und ihre Beziehungen zu den Nachbarklöstem Lüne und Wienhausen,” in Kugler, Weltbild, pp. 245-59.
45.   The relevant sources are given in Marcia Kupfer, “Medieval World Maps: Embedded Images, Inter­pretive Frames,” Word and Image 10 ( 1994): 273-76. Kupfer needlessly rejects the view that the map was originally part of the triptych.
46.   This feature has been observed by Klaus Clausberg, “Scheibe, Rad, Zifferblatt,” in Weltbild, p. 280.
47.   Gert Unverfehrt, Hieronymus Bosch. Die Rezeption seiner Kunst im frühen 16. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1980), pp. 151-86.
48.   De Tolnay, Bosch, p. 403.
49.   Bax, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 3.
50.   Bosch’s chief sources are translations of Athanasius’ Greek Vitae Patrum (the Latin is given in the Patrología Latina 73: 126ff.); on Bosch’s vernacular sources, see Bax, Hieronymus Bosch, pp. 7-12.
51.   De Tolnay, Bosch, cat. 24.
52.   Ibid., p. 402.
53.   On Bosch and the devotio moderna, see Paul Vandenbroeck, Hieronymous Bosch. Tussen volksleven en stadscultuur (Berchem, 1987), p. 120, passim.
54.   Jean Michel Massing, “Sicut erat in diebus Antonii: The Devils Under the Bridge in the Tribulations of St. Antony by Hieronymus Bosch in Lisbon,” in Sight and Insight: Essays on Art and Culture in Honor of E. H. Gombrich at 85, ed. John Onians (London, 1994), pp. 108-27.
55.   De Tolnay, Bosch, p. 402.
56.   Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat, Hieronymous Bosch. Eine historische Interpretation seiner Gestaltung- sprinzipien (Munich, 1981), pp. 55-61.
57.   The Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters, ed. and trans. Hessel Miedema (Doom- spijk, 1994), vol. 1, p. 125.
58.   Lorraine Daston, “Marvelous Facts and Miraculous Evidence in Early Modem Europe,” Critical Inquiry 18 (1991): 93-124- On the museological category of “error” as historically constitutive of the idea of “art,” see Horst Bredekamp, Antikensehnsucht und Maschinenglauben (Berlin, 1993), p. 21.
59.   Compare Hans Sedlmayr’s comments on Bruegel in “Die ‘Macchia’ Bruegels,” Jahrbuch der kunsthis- torischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s. 8 (1934): 137-59.
60.   Bax, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 113; Ludwig von Baldass, Hieronymus Bosch (Vienna, 1943), p. 245.
61.   First noted in Enrico Castelli, II demoniaco nell’ arte (Milan, 1958), on travestied Eucharists in Bosch, see Jeffrey Hamburger, “Bosch’s ‘Conjurer’: An Attack on Magic and Sacramental Heresy,” Simiolus 14 (1984): 5-24.
62.   Bax, Hieronymus Bosch, p. 117.
63.   Recorded by Siguença (De Tolnay, Bosch, p. 403).
64.   On Bosch imitators, see Unverfehrt, Hieronymus Bosch, pp. 122-235.
65.   On Bruegel’s realism as an anti-artifice, see David Freedberg, The Prints of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Tokyo, 1989), pp. 53-65.
66.   Lampsonius, Les effigies des peintres célèbres des Pays-Bas, ed. Jean Puraye (Liège, 1956), pp. 60-61.
67.   Lives, vol. 1,190.

In: Picturing Science Producing Art. Edited by Caroline A. Jones and Peter Galison. London, Routledge, 1998, pp. 297-323.

4 comentários:

  1. A really "monstrous" post, I've just link it to my old post for Bosch in Syn-dentro:


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