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Headfooter with owl by Heronymus Bosch

Headfooter with owl by Heronymus Bosch




At the bottom of the left-hand panel of the Hermit Saints Triptych walks a head-footer among the fantastic animals. The creature’s anatomical inconsistencies are hidden by a turban. Bosch here continues a classical Greek tradition in which leaving out large areas of the body was seen as frightening. An owl nests on the torso-less being’s head. Here it does not symbolise wisdom, like Athena’s owl, but deception and scheming. After all, this bird of prey was thought to surprise innocent, sleeping prey in the dark.

This triptych depicts three early Christian saints who lived in complete isolation to protect themselves from early temptation. from left to right; Saint Anthony, who lived in the Egyptian desert; saint Jerome who lived in Bethlehem and Saint Giles, who lived as a hermit in southern France.

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