Readers will find my latest commentary on the esoteric meaning of Hieronymus Bosch's work, in this case Death and the Miser, by following the link at the bottom of this introduction.
Following the death of my sister a bit less than 2 years ago, I've been engaged in an ongoing contemplation about the nature of death, and examining Death and the Miser- which ought, more properly, to be called Death and the Patron- in greater detail turned out to be a significant part of that work. I saw the painting in person or the first time at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. in February 2012 and it has been on my mind ever since; it is only on this most recent trip to China that I've had enough time alone to truly ponder the painting and write on it... thinking of this kind is, I find, best done in the early hours of the morning, and in foreign lands.
Any serious analysis of Hieronymus Bosch's symbolism reveals a consistency that may be surprising to the uninitiated. From painting to painting, Bosch employed a portable visual vocabulary that constituted a sophisticated and consistent pictorial language. This was not the highly personalized, nearly onanistic language of today's art; his language was drawn from thousands of years of esoteric understanding, deftly translated into colors, images, and juxtapositions that illustrate classic inner truths known since ancient times. Passed down through schools, many of these Truths reached the Middle Ages through the agency of monasteries and cults of the Virgin largely intact.
Death was a more tangible impression in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; it came, on average, far earlier, and often with far less warning. This proximity, and its consequent urgency, caused people to contemplate the nature of life more concisely than we do today; and we can learn from them—especially from Bosch, who, it's clear, knew more than the average person.
Considered in depth and at length, the work leaves an indelible inner impression. Despite the apparent simplicity of the work, it plants a seed that grows as one contemplates it; and it is a testament to the durability of both the imagery and its symbolism that the painting continues to yield insights long after the first impressions are taken. The work is a work to be not so much viewed, as taken in and digested.
It speaks not to the outer, but the inner man; and this is in the nature both of koans— questions which pose conundrums that cannot be answered with the ordinary mind— and esoteric works which attempt to convey information to our inner Being, that sacred realm yet uncorrupted by our ordinary concerns and desires.
The link to the detailed commentary is below:
Death and the Miser
May your soul be filled with light.