• Haywain


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Artist: Hieronymus Bosch; Oil painting on panel; Size:135x100 cm (central panel), 135x45 cm (wings); Prado. Madrid.

Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych of painting Haywain with movable wings can dated to around 1490, it is Hieronymus Bosch’s masterpiece. There is another version of the art work in the Escorial, but the one in the Prado is considered the original.
When the wings are open the triptych painting presents the Triumph of the Haywain in the middle, scenes of the Earthly Paradise (from the Creation of Eve to the Expulsion) on the left, and Hell on the right; with its wings closed it depicts the Wayfarer. In the Paradise great emphasis is given to the birth of Evil, illustrated by the swarm of insects that represent the rebel angels and are set underneath God the Father. On the right wing we see a building in flames, writhing demons and alchemical symbols. The fire has been interpreted as the fire of alchemy, while the tower that the demons are building is seen as an athanor, an alchemical furnace. The Wayfarer, visible on the outside of the shutters, alludes to the dangers that threaten the faithful, from physical ones, illustrated by the man robbed by brigands, to moral ones, represented by the dance of the shepherds to the sound of the bagpipe. The main image, that of the haywain, may have been inspired by a Dutch song dating from around 1470, which says that the stack of hay represents what God has given for the benefit of all humanity, and it is folly to try to hoard it. As hay is not costly, the parallel expresses the scarce value of the earthly things over which some are willing to fight, and translates essentially into a criticism of greed. The image of the haywain was widely used in Flanders, appearing in engravings, folk songs and poems, as well as in the Flemish proverb "the world is like a haywain, everyone takes what he can." We know too that Bosch, as a member of a religious confraternity, had contributed on several occasions to the decoration of wagons for processions, and it is possible that this firsthand experience had inspired the composition.
Above, Christ observes everything, but only an angel turns his gaze on him, a sign of the scanty attention paid to the divine example. Among the people that throng the scene, there is even a pope on the left, identified by some as Alexander VI Borgia.

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