Holy Shit: Bosch’s Bluebird and the Junction of the Scatological and the Eschatological in Late Medieval Art
Mandabach, Marisa (Harvard University)
Marginalia, Vol. 11, October (2010)
In the Hell panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights (ca. 1500), a devil with the head of a bird and a humanoid body with glowing blue skin devours one naked soul and drops two more, in a transparent blue bubble, into a cesspool (Figure 1). Its black eye conveys no hint of consciousness; glinting with two white highlights, it is all surface and all abyss. Although the orifice that expels the bubble is hidden by the seat of a throne-like privy chair, in its hue the bubble is a material extension of the devil‘s body, a body shown to be doubly porous: half-ruptured from the bubble, a naked male falls from one abjection to- wards another, his arms still flailing inside the blue membrane, his legs dangling over the cesspool he will join. Another victim follows him headfirst. Their tormentor is an eating and defecating machine. Moreover, the half-eaten victim in its raised claw has been infected with the latter of these modes, releasing (no doubt in terror, as in a literal ̳fight or flight‘ response) a smoky cloud of black- birds from his or her anus.