This is one of two fragments of a lost triptych that’s attributed to Bosch because, well, come on! Nobody else in the entire history of art painted messed up visions of hell like this!
My favorite part of this are the two walking nun’s heads in the lower right. The Bosch visions of hell found in various triptych panels of his feature so many mutants, demons and animals dressed in human clothes torturing or sodomizing sinners in the underworld that after a while they start to look like weird acid trippy cartoons designed to scare kids on Saturday mornings. I’d like to think that’s why the churches hired Bosch to paint this stuff to put on display every week at Mass. What better way for the illiterates out there to get Clive Barker-esque imagery to match the sermon’s warnings about the results of sins?
This panel is also known as “The Death of the Reprobate,” who I assume is the central figure in the bed surrounded by demons and debauchery, never mind the weird lizards and spider-scorpion-thing on the floor.
Back to my favorite: those two walking monk & nun’s heads, a matching set. I’d like to hear them offering some sort of Statler & Waldorf commentary on the sins of the reprobate, with a few good punch lines.
I love Bosch. There’s always so much going on in his monster-sized tableau, always a new bit of weirdness to pick up on and wonder WTF? Breugel would do similar stuff, and while works like “The Triumph of Death” approach Bosch levels of horror movie weirdness, Bosch’s unreal creatures and mutations make the difference. The idea of people actually believing the reality of the cosmos he painted is mind blowing. In modern movies, we get deformed hell-demons and the like, whether it’s pea-soup vomiting Linda Blair or the apartment house full of demonic carnival freaks conjured up by Burgess Meredith at the end of The Sentinel (a must see item!), but Bosch’s stuff just looks… well…. comical. It’s like Charles Addams drew hell, or something only a few steps away from what Don Martin might have come up with.
After all, we all know hell really looks like this: