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The Prodigal Son - Jerome Bosch. Board, oil.
With the title “Prodigal Son”, first of all, the picture of the great Rembrandt usually appears before the inner eye. One of these masterpieces is a painting by Bosch of the late period of his work.
This masterpiece reveals an undoubted similarity with his other work - "Wozen". On the wings of the triptych a similar persona is depicted, even the pose and color scheme are very similar and are repeated, if not exactly, then in general terms.
Although the image is called the “Prodigal Son," it is not directly related to the biblical parable. Here the name “Traveler” or “Pilgrim” is more appropriate, as, however, this picture was called before. This name is based on Bosch’s deep religious belief that a person is just a guest on this earth, a traveler who must go his earthly way before he deserves eternal life in the next world.
The traveler, who is captured by the artist, is bent in an arc from adversity, torn and patched. He carries all his simple belongings with him, leaning on a stick. The traveler is thin, and his clothes and shoes are old and shabby, he even has different shoes and a torn leg. In his hands he holds the same plain gray hat with a hint of a feather. But he is armed with a good knife, which should symbolize a person’s desire to defend themselves against attacks and threats of fate.
The environment of the main character is the key to understanding the meaning of the image. If you do not peer into the details, you can decide that this person leaves his home with regret, turning back at him for the last time in the hope of remembering forever.
But it is worthwhile to carefully consider all the details, as it becomes clear that something completely different is depicted here. Despite the fact that in the courtyard a skinny pig eats with his no less skinny pigs, there is a dog loitering around the traveler and a cow standing in the corral behind, this is clearly not a farm. Rather, it is a rural tavern, a roadside tavern. This is evidenced by the image of a man meeting a small need behind the building, and the second gentleman, squeezing a supple woman in the doorway. Then it becomes clear that the tavern is a symbol of sinfulness, and the traveler who looks back at her with such longing is a sinner fleeing from the temptations of this life.