Brand Philip 1953
“The Prado Epiphany by Jerome Bosch” (Lotte Brand Philip) 1953
[in: The Art Bulletin, vol. XXXV, nr. 4 (December 1953), pp. 267-293]
[Also mentioned in Gibson 1983: 83-84 (E69)]
Brand Philip convincingly identifies the strange figure in the stable in the Prado Adoration of the Magi as the Jewish Messiah (the Antichrist according to Christian ideology). The Three Magi are symbols of the World, which is situated between the divine and the infernal powers. This ‘world’, in which Evil is active, is represented in the background of the interior panels. In the exterior panels we see the Passion, which resulted from the Seven Deadly Sins. The essential theme of the whole triptych is: Christ, Who warns mankind of Evil.
Although the motifs used by Bosch in this triptych are traditional, the actual subject is not traditional at all: the World, which is considered negative. In this way Bosch moved the altarpiece from its original sphere of religion into a new sphere of moralization and didactics. That is probably the reason why Bosch’s triptychs disappeared so quickly from the churches and ended up in private collections.
Brand Philip also points out an important aspect of Bosch’s method: he often borrows traditional elements, uses them for his own purposes, amalgates ideas taken from different spheres into an organic pictorial unity and sometimes changes their meaning into the opposite. That is the reason why for a modern viewer Bosch’s paintings usually are so mysterious and confusing.