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Friday, February 6, 2015

The Ship of Fools and the satire on sanity



Among the depicted works we can see such masterpieces as Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Vittore Carpaccio’s The Healing of the Possessed Man at the Rialto.

This was perhaps a brave attempt to show madness from a different perspective, but still not quite a very successful one. The author of the article makes clear what he thinks on the issue right from the first sentence: “Art has led the way in seeing mental illness not as alien or contemptible but part of the human condition – even as a positive and useful experience.” I might be the only one to decipher some patronising attitude in this statement, but then I do sympathise with the author as it is perhaps really hard to see that something is not an illness in a society defined by medicalization.

And this is what I want to talk about in this post. I would like to describe the condition of the current society from the perspective that it is all those who are socially constrained, end up being insane and not the other way around.

And I will use an example from the art world as well.

Let’s look at the following painting by Jheronymous Bosh called The Ship of Fools, or The Satire of the Debauched Revelers.

On it we can see the debauchery caused by some distinguished members of the society. The two figures in front are a Franciscan friar and a nun, quite unthinkable at the time of the painting (1490-1500). Which is also the case today, apart from some Youtube videos showing Russian priests being drunk and swearing on God’s name that they can have whatever they want, including millions of dollars in the car’s trunk. I have to say that the behaviour of some Christians was perhaps the main problem for me to reach my own faith. Until I understood, of course, that not all Christians deserve to be called as such and not everyone who goes to Church believes in God or understands his significance.

But this painting, in particular, has an additional meaning. The ship itself holds the biggest symbolism. Because it was on these kind of ships that the mad were put and sent into the fools’ paradise (into nowhere) in the Middle Ages.

On this painting, however, there is only one fool, and who is put there with a purpose: to remind the viewers that it is the ship of fools indeed which is depicted. But by placing other characters, so called ‘sane’ members of the society on it, Bosh made his view on madness quite clear.

It is not the mad who should be sent away or treated but all the hypocritical members of the society who harm others in the name of God.

In our generation we can talk about all those members of the society who judge others while failing to analyse their own short-comings in the first instance.

Watch the amazing video of Hozier Take me to Church.

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