03 May 2016

Ship of Fools plus Allegory of Intemperance

The Ship of Fools is one of Bosch's more famous works. It was part of a triptych, now dismantled, and is now in the Louvre. One time when I was there, as I waited for a chance to look at the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck which was being monopolized by a large group, I kept going back to look at the Ship.
The composition of the fragment is pyramidal which feels more Renaissance than many of Bosch's paintings that are more like a carpet, flattened in a medieval way. The Ship is the upper part of the left panel.

The lower part of the panel is now in the Yale University Art Gallery and is called An Allegory of Intemperance. The triptych probably represented the Seven Deadly Sins with greed or miserliness on the right panel, now in the National Gallery of Art as Death and the Miser.
Here, the composition is not so centralized as the Ship, feeling more like the fields of cavorting individuals and monsters that are usually associated with Bosch. And it feels like a fragment. I was thrilled to see it in New Haven a few years ago but didn't think about how it fit together with the other fragments.

Because the two parts of this panel were separated a long time ago, they have aged differently. They were displayed together, without frames, in the Bosch show in Den Bosch. The cut between the Ship and Allegory is clear. Together, the composition is much flatter. This was the most compelling moment of surprise, for me, in the Bosch exhibition. There is a picture of the reconstruction, with the right wing, on the Wikipedia page for the Ship:
The Ship has now become part of a larger composition, rather than feeling independent as it does as a fragment. This was a revelation for me, a delightful revelation.

Though tickets for the last couple weeks of the show were pretty much sold out online, some day tickets were available on site. I did go to Den Bosch on Saturday even though my ticket was for Sunday night. A day ticket for Saturday at 6 pm was available so I did get to go through the exhibition twice.

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