Distraction is the Devil

Distraction is the Devil

From Transmutations: Alchemy in Art by Principe and DeWitt:

"In Bosch's Wayfarer (Rotterdam), ... a traveler is distracted by a small growling dog while walking the allegorical path of life, implying that he lacks the concentration or devotion necessary for the true Christian."

"This turning figure is actually a type reused by Teniers [David Teneirs the Younger].... 
"... [see below] his St. Anthony Being Tempted by Demons, where the saint tries to focus on his prayerful devotions while surrounded by temptations..."

"The anomalous glance and minor gesture of irritated interruption [is also] found in Alchemist in His Workshop.... Teniers ... adopts the motif for his chymist, whose concentration is demanded by the profusion of operations going on before him."

"The large Alchemist in His Workshop dating from around 1650 ... is a complex and subtle harmony of tones... [I]t is made up of a complicated series of interlocking low diagonals and triangles. The scene is set in a spacious workshop strewn with books, glassware, and other implements. Our chymist is distracted from his work, possibly by the mouse we see in the foreground, nibbling on a candle nub. Before him on the hearth is a crucible upon burning coals... and two distillations are in progress, with a fire clearly visible under one of them. His distracted bellows points at a third distillation going on in a portable iron furnace, again with the bright flames visible to the viewer."

“  The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch)  ” Tim Storrier

The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch)” Tim Storrier

Contrast these old-fashioned characters with a modern wayfarer as painted by Tim Sorrier, who gazes forward, not back, oblivious to demons and clutter. Today’s wayfarer carries the demons and clutter on her person, being a hollow construct of that which distracts.

 

Image: Hieronymus Bosch "The Pedlar/The Wayfarer"

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