Hieronymous Bosch Creatures and Caliban
Sorry to be sticking with the Caliban trend…
There was an image in our copy of The Tempest (Folger, page 84), glossed in the reference notes, of a fish-bird-man-thing - a visual interpretation of Caliban. Of course, there are a million interpretations of Caliban (and Ariel too), but this one was so eerie that it got me thinking of some paintings I’ve seen by Hieronymous Bosch.
A bit about Bosch: he lived simultaneously in line with and before his time, and a century prior to Shakespeare. A Dutch painter of the 15th century, Bosch’s work represents the transition from the religious imagery of the Middle Ages to the individualist imagery of the Renaissance; his work’s content derives from Biblical scenes (such as Genesis, Hell, The Last Judgement, etc.) though the imagery he uses is visionary and magical. His creatures are often absurd hybrids of things…hence, we may consider them many of them Caliban-like…
This image is a detail from Bosch’s Temptation of Saint Anthony.
Besides the connection to the wild visual representations of Caliban, I think Bosch’s larger body of work reflects larger themes in The Tempest: for instance, the work represents different types of power - magical, religious, political, etc, through this rare combination of religious imagery and individualized artistic style. Also, Bosch lived at a time of toss up between religious hierarchy and individual autonomy, and he also lived though the era in which European nations began conquests to the New World. I like to think Bosch was embracing the concept of the New World in his art, as his paintings of abnormal creatures were breaking the artistic codes of the day.