Five hundreds and thirteen years after it was painted, Jheronimus Bosch’s master painting ‘The Pedlar’ has come as a revelation this morning. I neither knew of Bosch nor ‘The Pedlar’ until this morning and but for my obsessive visits to the Google Art Project, I would not have discovered them.
‘The Pedlar’, on the face of it, seems like a man peddling things. And he probably was in Bosch’s preliminary imagination. However, a description in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which is the only museum in the Netherlands with a collection of paintings by Bosch, says, “This vagabond or pedlar with mismatched shoes is symbolic of man on his path through life. He is a kind of ‘Everyman’ a popular late 15th century moral tale. He represents the ‘homo viator’, the pilgrim who goes through life weighed down by the baggage of his earthly existence. He suffers his lot along a path full of temptations.”
As I always do, I have zoomed in and sliced the painting down to various corners in order to bring out fantastic details of Bosch’s vision.
In the first frame, apart from the pedlar’s evocative expression, notice details such as his stubble, hair, creased up neck and so on.
In this frame see the man urinating and also notice the stream. Also, don’t miss what looks like a raccoon hide hanging from his wicker basket.
This one has a woman peering out of a window, one of whose shutters has come unhinged. The woman’s expression is one of nervous curiosity at seeing the pedlar. Check out the man and woman in the doorway engaged in something urgent even as a caged bird looks on.
This frame, of course, has been a matter of much comment because it shows mismatched shoes. I am also struck by the dog’s expression. (See below)
And finally, the owl and and woodpecker complete the picture.
Of course, there are other details such as a rooster and a bunch of pigs as well as cattle and people in the distance.