“Geheimtaal van Bosch ontsluierd” (Bert D’Haese) 1977
[in: De Standaard der Letteren, 9th September 1977]
[Not mentioned in Gibson 1983]
In this newspaper article D’Haese focuses on the woman with a baby (in a hollow tree, riding a giant rat) in the Lisbon Temptations of St. Anthony. According to him the knight on horseback and the ‘pedlar’ symbolize greed, the trumpeteer on the giant pitcher refers to drunkenness. The old woman on the rat is a dry nurse (as is proven by the baby and the bakermat on which she sits) but also a witch (she has got the tail of a mermaid and is riding a rat) who is carrying a hollow tree (a symbol of sin and death) on her head. D’Haese rejects Van Lennep’s alchemical interpretation and quotes the Malleus Maleficarum in which dry nurses who sacrifice new-born babies to the devil are mentioned. According to D’Haese Bosch was definitely not an alchemist (see Van Lennep), otherwise he would not have placed his alchemical references in a negative context.
D’Haese forgets that Bosch may have been familiar with alchemical symbols, even though in his works he tries to demonstrate the foolishness of alchemical practices (as Bruegel obviously did in his).