Tuesday, 14 July 2009

OTS: Medieval Pageant 5

This is the last one of these scans from ‘Medieval Pageant’ by Bryan Holme. It’s a painting called ‘The Juggler’ by Hieronymus Bosch, late 15th century. Here’s the moderately informative waffle that accompanies it:
‘Jugglers or conjurers, were popular entertainers in the Middle Ages, along with acrobats, contortionists, mimers, clowns, minstrels and others. And at court there was the king’s jester whose act depended on wit, humour and diplomacy, all three in just the right balance for him to be sure his head would remain safely on his shoulders. In the scene above, as in all paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, there is more going on than at first meets the eye. The conjurer has so riveted the attention of the stoutest of his audience that the scoundrel directly behind the bending figure, while gazing innocently upward over the top of his spectacles, relieves him of his purse. Strictly speaking, there were no ‘pickpockets’ in these days because few had pockets to pick, only sacks, bags, or other small receptacles to hold their coins.’
Now my own moderately uninformative waffle:
This was actually painted in the late 1470s and is sometimes called ‘The Conjurer.’ There’s alot of misdirection going on in it – the conjurer is doing a version of the cups and balls trick, the pickpocket is staring into space trying to look innocent, and then Bosch is misdirecting the viewer by making the conjurer the centre of attention. Apart from the wondrous negative space there’s also an owl in a basket, what looks like a baby bird in the rhyming circular window in the top left, and also a little animal that could be a dog but on closer inspection turns out to be a monkey in a jester’s hood. The boy is apparently carrying an air foil which flew when spun. There’s a much bigger and clearer version of the painting here.
And here’s a video of some more misdirection. So many links, so little time - don't you feel misdirected?

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