Ship of Fools, Bosch

Ship of Fools, Bosch
Ship of Fools, Bosch

During the first years of the 16th century, Europe was going through a time of transition and while in some places like Italy the Renaissance gave way to a new, more anthropocentric mentality, in the Netherlands medieval thought was still very ingrained. In this context, there are many works that denounce the vices of the time, especially in the religious environment; in particular, the painting of Hieronymus Bosch will be one of the main voices that raises the most against the sin that consumed the religious of the time, proclaiming a renewal that should begin with the bosom of the church itself.

At the beginning of the century, specifically between 1503 and 1504, the Flemish painter El Bosco made a small-format oil on panel (barely fifty-eight centimeters high and just over thirty-three wide)) en titled The Ship of Fools and is currently on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. In reality, the dating was done a posteriori because like most of the Flemish artist's works there are no dates, but due to the invoice of the canvas and the colors used we could speak of one of the pieces belonging to his last stage.


The artist presents us with a natural landscape in which a strange scene unfolds,in the middle of a lake we observe a drifting boat that no one cares about take therudder; In the center of the scene we find a Franciscan nun and a Franciscan friar who are struggling to eat a piece of meat that hangs from a cane while other characters steal food from the table. Anarchy reigns on the barge and while some fight others shout, dance… all the characters seem to belong to humble social classes and different sins are reflected in them.

The ship of fools represents the drift that awaits the world when it loses its way,that is, it stops being guided by reason and begins to do so by instincts; It is the artist's criticism of society, especially the ecclesiastical society of his time. However, this is not a new criticism since Bosch could have been inspired by such famous texts as Sebastian Brant's The Ship of Fools or even The Praise of Madness written by Erasmus himself.

Popular topic